June 07, 2009

The Bridgiest Muse: What more Brooklyn Bridge Poetry, Part II & Final & Cock-&-Bull!

This website was nearly rent irreparably after a filthy political cleavage & rap-warfare, a few months ago. After hip-hop legend William McGonagall, famed bard of the Tay Bridge in Dundee, dissed:

The New Yorkers boast about their Brooklyn Bridge,
But in comparison to thee it seems like a midge,
Because thou spannest the Silvery Tay
A mile and more longer I venture to say;
Besides the railway carriages are pulled across by a rope,
Therefore Brooklyn Bridge cannot with thee cope;

Brooklynites didn't take this well, & for months it raged back & forth with odes & tight lyrics & nasty radio smear attacks. NOW! When we thought the issue had been resolved by popular election, the Huffington Post goes & publishes a completely one-sided unbalanced article about Brooklyn Bridge poetry, with NOT ONE MENTION of Dundee's famous bridge. And the media gives this a free pass.

It may seem odd for a bridge to be a focal point for poetry, but the Brooklyn Bridge has inspired a remarkable number of good (and some great) poems. The Russian Futurist Vladimir Mayakovsky was moved when he first saw it in 1925, as he described in his poem "Brooklyn Bridge:"

...it stretches on cables of string
to the feet of the stars.

I stare
as an eskimo gapes at a train,
I seize on it
as a tick fastens to an ear.
Brooklyn Bridge--
That's quite a thing!

At the time of Mayakovsky's visit, the American poet Hart Crane was writing his great poem "The Bridge." Crane lived, for a while, in an apartment overlooking the East River, and in his visionary mind the Brooklyn Bridge became a springboard to the spiritual. Here's an excerpt from the opening:

O harp and altar, of the fury fused,
(How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)
Terrific threshold of the prophet's pledge,
Prayer of pariah, and the lover's cry,--

Again the traffic lights that skim thy swift
Unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,
Beading thy path--condense eternity:
And we have seen night lifted in thine arms.

Under thy shadow by the piers I waited;
Only in darkness is thy shadow clear.
The City's fiery parcels all undone,
Already snow submerges an iron year . . .

In 1956, the beat poet Jack Kerouac celebrated the bridge in another visionary poem (Kerouac's visions may have had a little...help) called "The Brooklyn Bridge Blues":

I looked at the red winter
disgusting dusk of the world,
saw the alleys beyond,
Brooklyn, Wolfe's redbrick
jungle (that I'd only
last night walkt, unto
Gowanus Cana!)----O!
--& I remembered the dreams
the dreams about racks
and Joan Adams and drear
and a tear appeared
in my eye over the river
on the Bridge of Sights
that as soon as I'd
(c r o c o d i l e)
crossed it, had taken
me to the shore
I was looking for!
Svaha! I am
the perfect man
the Buddha of This World

In case you're new to the Beats, you shouldn't worry if the poem doesn't make total sense. You might want to worry (c r o c o d i l e) if it does.

Oh, it makes perfect sense to us, HUFFINGTON POST! You go & lick your bridge on its central girders. "I seize on it as a tick fastens to an ear." Disgusting. True poets know a real bridge when they look on it in so grand array.

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