Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation. Feel free to comment even if you are not officially participating! This week’s prompt is:
Tell us about your favorite poem or poet.
Stephen Crane (1871-1900) is perhaps best known as a novelist and short story writer, as well for his involvement in realism and American naturalism. He wrote, among other works, The Red Badge of Courage and Maggie: A Girl of the Streets. Crane, however, also wrote poetry, publishing two volumes–The Black Riders and Other Lines and War Is Kind.
Crane’s poems address war, loss, the struggle of writing and, most of all, belief. Sometimes Crane’s poems despair over the unkindness of merciless gods and sometimes they hold out more hope. The conflicting notes they strike reveal Crane as a man of complexity who seems to have embraced his contradictory nature. It’s that contradiction that draws me to his poetry. It says that it’s okay if you don’t have all the answers. It’s okay if you sometimes struggle. It’s okay if you sometimes doubt.
Crane’s works are now in the public domain, so if you’re interested in his poetry, it’s not hard to find. I recommend “Many red devils ran from my heart,” “Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind,” and “Fast rode the knight.”
Many red devils ran from my heart
And out upon the page,
They were so tiny
The pen could mash them.
And many struggled in the ink.
It was strange
To write in this red muck
Of things from my heart.