Ode to a Bridge: Wordsmiths Are Inspired by a Landmark


There are moments when poetic ecstasy trumps reality and remakes the thing forever: “O Sleepless as the river under thee,/Vaulting the sea, the prairies’ dreaming sod,/ Unto us lowliest sometimes sweep, descend/And of the curveship lend a myth to God.” Though the Brooklyn Bridge was Hart Crane’s towering metaphor, he wasn’t alone in finding inspiration there (see also Bishop and Kerouac). Yet, for some, it’s hard to walk it and not imagine his potted progress “onward and up the crystal-flooded aisle.” For the ninth consecutive year, poets and devotees will take a similar walk, from Manhattan’s Municipal Building to Fulton Ferry Landing, stopping to read poems inspired by the bridge and the city from the likes of Audre Lorde and Charles Simic. Bill Murray reads Frank O’Hara’s “Steps”; Manhattan Borough Prez C. Virginia Fields reads Langston Hughes’s “Subway Rush Hour.” Later, there’ll be a dinner at St. Anne’s Warehouse at which Robert “Iron John” Bly will receive the Elizabeth Kray Award for Service to Poetry; but the highlight’s sure to be Galway Kinnell’s recitation of Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” a connection scribed across time on a loved city: ” . . . Brooklyn of ample hills was mine,/I too walked the streets of Manhattan island.”