O steel! O stone! Poems of the Brooklyn Bridge

Yesterday (4/9), Ayendy Bonifacio led the Kerouac Krew to discuss several poems that “contemplate, illustrate and even eroticize the Brooklyn Bridge”: selections from Jack Kerouac’s “Brooklyn Bridge Blues,” Marianne Moore’s “Granite and Steel,” Vladimir Mayakovsky’s “Brooklyn Bridge,” Hart Crane’s “To Brooklyn Bridge,” and Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.” Each of these poems engages with a radically different relationship to the bridge, and to its readers. We discussed how Kerouac’s take is more personal and ironic, while Moore broods over the exploitation of immigrant workers who made the bridge. They have not quite partaken of the liberty promised by the “Caged Circe of steel and stone,” represented by the Statue of Liberty as seen through the bridge (see photo below). Mayakovsky, a Russian futurist, challenges the iconic status of the bridge (and of America itself?), with the very form of the poem–its irregular line breaks and intrusions of white space create a sense of instability. Crane’s vision is of an ethereal, almost spiritual bridge, whose “curveship lend[s] a myth to God.” Finally, how can you talk about Brooklyn and poetry without Whitman? We only touched on “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” briefly, which does not reference the bridge directly, but uses setting to transcend the individual–reaching out to us in the 21st century, declaring that those who “shall cross from shore to shore years hence, are more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.”

"Caged Circe of steel and stone."

“Caged Circe of steel and stone.”

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