America, fickle gal that she is, loves her failures. She loves them so much that she’ll rename them martyrs if she has to. Such is the case with the newly released Hart Crane volume in the Library of America series.
You’re familiar with the Library of America even if you’re not, the glossy black tomes of rat-flattening thickness with swooping brushwork titles underscored by a subtle patriot’s ribbon and corner illustration – an author’s photo usually, though sometimes a portrait.
So despite the warning, these books are desperately judged by their covers. These are serious books, compadre. Of serious matters by serious people, people who wore high collars, people like William Dean Howells, John Muir, Sarah Orne Jewett, even T.R..! These are the bricks in the gaddammed wall of civilization! And now that everyone’s favorite club kid is among them, there’s hope for us all.
Reading Crane’s letters next to his poems can be draining. He lays out the intention of his aesthetic so plainly, so eagerly to be attained, that the elusiveness of his lyrics jolts you with each new reading. His intellect was a hot rod idling at the end of the track, the driver’s hand slipping from the wheel.
The poems have always been of two worlds: the connotations modern, the diction antique. Had Crane lived, one wonders if he would have resolved the tension on his own or been stormed by the villagers, pitchforks and torches, Strunk & White.
Different tensions await the Crimson Tide this Saturday. Year three of Sly Croom’s tenure at Mississippi State has been another rocky one, perhaps best illustrated by close losses being re-defined as “improvement”. Comparatively, improving as the season goes hasn’t been Alabama’s M.O. in recent years, and some observers think that despite nagging injuries across the roster, the Bulldogs may bring in enough improvement to overcome the 15-point line dropped on them by Vegas.
What do I think? I think jumping headfirst into defeat makes for fine poetry but lousy football. I think teams that are accustomed to losing find ways to lose. And I think the song says they got a name for the winners in the world.