I am a fan of all sorts of poetry from classic to modern. I came to enjoy poetry in the doldrums of middle age. Poetry was that college class I struggled through as an undergraduate. I was anxious to learn more important things of the world. Now, I see that there is little that is not dark and confrontational in my chosen field of study, political science. I turned to poetry for a brighter look at life. My original thoughts, and few still linger at present, is that poetry is overly sentimental and idealistic. There like all things is good and bad poetry. Poetry you like. Poetry you dislike.
If there was a starting point for the non-poetry reader to get a feel for the art instead of dropping into dactylic hexameter meter of the Greeks or the romantic or pastoral poets. Something for the average male to pick up without embarrassment that someone might see him reading and reading of all things poetry. This is where Crane steps in. He is a bit sarcastic, doesn’t rhyme, and pretty much fearless, even when talking about God. There is no overly sentimental matter, cute cats, lucky clover, helping angels, or even romance. The title poem opens:
Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind
Because your lover threw wild hands toward the
And the affrighted steed ran on alone,
Do not weep.
War is kind.
It is difficult not to feel the mocking sarcasm in the poem. The reader wanting to his or her place in the universe will find Crane’s feelings on the matter:
A man said to the universe
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”
Crane is straightforward and to the point in his writing. Rather than calling his work poetry or verse, he went with more a simple, but actually more descriptive term of “lines.” In the big picture, he wrote without regard for the rules but made it work. In like thinking, it is like the difference between classical and rock music. They both serve their purpose but are very different in form. Crane takes the art and strips away everything that is not necessary to convey his message. This is a collection that is perfect for readers who do not like poetry as well as those who savor it.