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Friday, 3 August 2012

Stephen Crane: "Many red devils ran from my heart..."


St Anthony the Hermit Tortured by the Devils: Sassetta, 1423, panel, 24 x 39 cm, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena

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.

Stephen Crane: "Many red devils ran from my heart...", from The Black Riders and Other Lines, 1895 


kent said...

Only a moment to check in before work -- but thank you Tom for reminding me again of the ghost of whom I consider our country's most unappreciated writer of all time. "(R)ed devils" indeed.

gamefaced said...

why the (r)ed devils?

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

"..this red muck
of things from my heart."

One would have to rummage through a lot of poems to find an ending line as strange and fitting as this one,

TC said...

At least they weren't blue.

Crane's strangeness has always kept his poetry from being justly appreciated. Whether or not it's understood, well...

Crane's poems have an interesting way of shifting meanings each time one comes back to them, over the very many years. In my raw youth Crane had a certain appeal to young poets who grasped, or imagined, the element of self parody. That there may also have been irony -- even sincerity -- maybe not grasped quite so well, then. Yet we were almost as young as he had been when he wrote them, so there's at least that not very good excuse. The critical sense of isolation and epiphenomenal dread and social disconnectedness in the poetry should not come as a great surprise. Impoverished almost always, sickly from childhood, forever having colds and never getting over them, yet testing himself to the extreme in so many circumstances.

At the same time his precocity with language is notable. His imitating his brother's handwriting at age 3, enquiring of his mother, "How do you spell 'O'?"

Susan Kay Anderson said...

The Cougar

It is winter. We’re driving across the desert.
Our bodies ache. We are this alive.
His words are dust, sage, riding fence,
and the explosion in the cook shack.
There is nothing in particular but then

masses of sheep spring from his lips.
An owl comes close
and the horse gets away
that summer. He is sweating
and blurry

Slumped in the seat
with a sore neck
as we pass the stockyard in Madras.

He’s talking about the land
while the owl’s wings brush across his brow
and on a path in the mountains
a cougar visits him. Pure accident
that he is alone and seeing
what he’s seeing so up close.
Now it is obvious that the cougar didn’t know
how to be more in the bushes or more in the trees.
His father showed him one once
stuffed in a basket on the porch
against all regulations
and nobody
was supposed to touch.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

How To Spell O

Look into the bear's mouth
and spell it--

turning round and around
Mister Stephen Crane

until you form some sort
of conclusion

hello hello
from the future
back to you
back to O
bread clouds hunger
your perfect
head rings
here love