I picked up a book called A Treasury of Favorite Poems somewhere along the way — it’s a big book with, oddly, no indication who selected or edited the poetry — and last weekend I read Stephen Crane’s “War is Kind,” which turned out to be not a single 15-page poem but most of an entire small book of untitled poems Crane published in 1899 called, of course, War is Kind.
I think I had encountered the titular poem before, with its bitter irony, and perhaps the poem about a short conversation with the universe:
A man said to the universe,
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”
And I was impressed by “There was a man with tongue of wood,” about a bad musician who found his audience, which I left here the other day.
We sing (and write and dance and sculpt) to make a connection. When another says, “Oh, I see! How splendid!” the art has fulfilled its purpose. (Actually, in truth, “Oh, I see!” is all that is necessary.)
Crane, it seems, was very prolific in his brief time on Earth — dying at age 28 — as if he somehow knew his time was relatively short and he needed to say as much as he could in the time allotted. If I’m to believe Wikipedia, he judged that he could make a living on the proceeds of his writing and so he wrote and wrote and wrote for his bread. What might we create if our food and shelter depended on our production, I wonder?