这段时间在读 Hart Crane: Complete Poems & Selected Letters 中书信部分。最初读到 Crane 在 Wallace Stevens 以及 T.S.Eliot 之后,当时也并没有读懂多少;不过后来逐渐对他的诗产生了新的理解,也想更多了解他的经历。

Hart Crane 在 1899 年出生于美国俄亥俄州,1932 年于墨西哥湾跳海自杀。在短暂且时常艰难的一生中,他留下了诗集 White Buildings 与长诗 The Bridge, 被批评家 Harold Bloom 称为二十世纪最伟大的美国诗人之一。他早期深受 T.S.Eliot 启发,欣赏其诗歌中的技巧,却不满于其负面、悲观的情绪。与之相反,Crane 想要表达出时代中积极的精神。然而如一位朋友与我聊天时说到,他的文学信念与生活经历呈现一种悲剧的对比。也会想到之前在卡夫卡日记中读到的一段话(近似):「我在小说中想象最深的绝望,为了在生活中经历它们时有所准备…」

Crane 早期书信中最打动我的,是他对诗歌的爱与信念。在1924年一封给父亲 Clarence Arthur Crane 信的末尾,他这样写道:

… And in closing I would like to just ask you to think some time, —try to imagine working for the pure love of simply making something beautiful,—something that maybe can’t be sold or used to help sell anything else, but that is simply a communication between man and man, a bond of understanding and human enlightenment—which is what a real work of art is. If you do that, then maybe you will see why I am not so foolish after all to have followed what seems sometimes only a faint star. I only ask to leave behind me something that the future may find valuable, and it takes a bit of sacrifice sometimes in order to give the thing that you know is in yourself and worth giving. I shall make every sacrifice toward that end.

「仅为造出某种美的事物的爱而工作,人与人间的交流,理解的纽带与人的启迪……真正的艺术作品」,这也是我相信的。无论诗歌,绘画,还是音乐,感受到启迪的时刻也都是获得新的视觉、听觉的时刻,产生新的联系、纽带的时刻:与做出这些作品的人,与历史以及世界。同时,出于对这些体验的感激,会想要去做类似的事,带给他人自己曾感有的感到,创造新的联系与启迪。对我来说,这才是真正意义上的工作。以及「去追逐一颗黯淡的星……我将为此付出一切需要的牺牲」……

Crane 对诗歌的信念可以追溯到很早。1917年与父亲的信中写到:

I shall really without doubt be one of the foremost poets in America if I am enabled to devote enough time to my art.

同年另一封信中:

These next four or five years mean a great deal to me. During this time I must master a technique of writing;—reading a tremendous amount,—for these are the years when I must have time for that, and must survey a great deal of the work of the masters;—and thirdly must I be in a fair way to establish a market for my own wares.

另一方面,克兰很早就对工作有了某种认识。1919年给朋友 William Wright 的信中写到

… I agree with you that for such as ourselves business life is not to be scorned. The commercial aspect is the most prominent characteristic of America and we all must bow to it sooner or later. I do not think, though, that this of necessity involves our complete surrender of everything else nobler and better in our aspirations. Illusions are falling away from everything I look at lately. At present the world takes on the look of a desert,— a devastation to my eyes, and I am finding it rather hard at best. Still there is something of a satisfaction in the development of one’s consciousness even though it is painful. There is a certain freedom gained,— a lot of things pass out of one’s concern that before mattered a great deal. One feels more freedom and the result is not by any means predominantly negative…

虽然在中间说「目前的世界就像沙漠」,但在最后提到了「对此现实的认识能够带来一种自由」。

另一封1920年给 Gorham Munson 的信中:

…The modern artist has got to harden himself, and the walls of an ivory tower are too delicate and brittle a coat of mail for substitute. The keen and most sensitive edges will result from this “hardening” process. If you will pardon a more personal approach, I think that you would do better to think less about aesthetics in the abstract,— in fact, forget all about aesthetics, and apply yourself closely to a conscious observation of the details of existence, plain psychology, etc. If you ARE an artist then, you will create spontaneously. But I pray for both of us,— let us be keen and humorous scientists anyway. And I would rather act my little tragedy without tears, although I would insist upon a tortured countenance and all sleekness pared off the muscles.

后半段也展现了与之前相似的乐观。

只是越往后读,越了解到他工作的困难与生活的困窘。Crane 高中时退学来到纽约,尝试寻找广告撰写员的工作(这也是他后来大部分工作的内容)。然而找到一份工作并不容易,求职几个月也无结果是常发生的事;一旦开始工作,工作的无聊与劳累又使他无法坚持太久。因此克兰常常手头拮据,给父母写信要求寄钱,需要在信中说明自身要求的正当性;或是后来给朋友写信借钱,有时不可避免地影响到与朋友的友谊。动荡的生活无疑令他耗费了不少时间与精力,或许也导致了酗酒等行为。

这一点上让我想到了与他近乎相反的史蒂文斯。哈佛毕业生,在纽约短暂尝试记者工作后学习法律并成为律师,随后在不同的法律公司合作,最终成为 Hartford 保险公司的 vice-president, 职业生涯平稳且成功。克兰与史蒂文斯,各自的诗歌风格与生活经历之间,是否存在某种关系?Crane 像兰波,visionary, prophetic, 短暂而激烈的生活;史蒂文斯则更像一个哲学家,precise, eloquent, 延续到晚年的持续发展…

两人生前最后的诗中片段:

And so it was I entered the broken world
To trace the visionary company of love, its voice
An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled)
But not for long to hold each desperate choice.

– Hart Crane, “The Broken Tower”

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

– Wallace Stevens, “Of Mere Being”