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Columbia Heights

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Hart Crane on the roof of 110 Columbia Heights. Late 1920s.

Lit Nerd Wednesday!

Living off and on in NYC for 16 years, I’ve often taken the beauty of it’s landmarks for granted, the Brooklyn Bridge being one of them. Poet Hart Crane was quite the opposite as he was well aware of its beauty and striking symbolism  inspiring him to write one of the greatest works in poetry. Hart Crane grew up in Cleveland yearning for a life of poetry much to the disappointment of his father who had more money minded pursuits in mind for him — an all too familiar story for an artist.  He came to New York City in the early 1920s to live the life of a poet which often included being broke, frustrated and bouncing from place to place.  His first collection of poems, White Buildings, was published in 1926 but it was The Bridge, published in 1930, that would be the pinnacle of his short career.

While working on this modernist epic poem he was urged by his lover, Emil Opfer, Jr, to take up residence at Opfer’s family home on 110 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn Heights in what was then an artists commune. Crane had the uncanny luck of having a sweeping view of the muse for his work in progress — the Brooklyn Bridge. Shortly after he wrote to a friend “Imagine my surprise when Emil brought me to this street where, at the very end of it, I saw a scene that was more familiar than a hundred factual provisions could’ve rendered it!” Crane left Columbia Heights shortly after the completion of The Bridge, once again jettisoned for his lack of money. He would return to the neighborhood briefly but ultimately said goodbye to Brooklyn and New York. Despondent over his lack of progress in the art he loved, he ended his life by jumping off a ship in the Gulf of Mexico in 1932.  

Who: Hart Crane

Where: 110 Columbia Heights

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