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Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Word Garden Word List--Stephen Crane


Hello poets! This week I am pleased to feature one of my very favorite poets--a man well ahead of his time--Stephen Crane. He is most well-known for his Civil War novella The Red Badge of Courage. While spending time posing for a portrait, he had been reading dry accounts of battles and he observed that "they spout enough of what they did, but they're emotionless as rocks." Crane wanted to portray what battle felt like, and though he had never been in one, he succeeded beyond anything else he would ever write. 

Crane is also known for Maggie, A Girl of the Streets." One day he saw slum children playing king of the mountain, but using rocks instead of snowballs, and he got an idea. He took to task a society that encourages ignorance and self-destruction in its lower classes. Crane is also the author of The Bride Comes To Yellow Sky and the excellent and chilling short story The Open Boat. 

However, Crane said this in comparing his fiction with his poetry: "Personally, I like my little book of poems The Black Riders better than I do The Red Badge of Courage. The reason is, I suppose, that the former is a more serious effort. In it I aim to give my ideas of life as a whole, as far as I know it, and the latter is a mere episode--an amplification."

Crane's poems are spare, blunt, filled with raw religious and totemic imagery, and contain an unsparing view of the world. Like Emily Dickinson--whose work he had been shown and may have been influenced by--Crane was far ahead of his time in an era when flowery form was the norm. One reviewer sniffed that "there is not a line of poetry from the opening to the closing page. Poetic lunacy would be a better name for the book" Another called it "so much trash." Crane was reportedly pleased that his book was causing a stir. Time has vindicated him and his influence can be found in the writings of Hemingway, the Beats, and even last week's subject, Jim Morrison. 

Stephen Crane's life was brief. He died at just 28 years of age, after a days-long Christmas party. Like so many poets before and since, Crane never found financial security, was misunderstood and undervalued in his own time, and fell into destructive personal habits. However, the work he left behind is luminous, sometimes shocking, true, and timeless. 

What we do here is to use at least 3 of the 20 words taken from the poetry of Stephen Crane and use them in a new original poem of our own--any style, length, or form. 

And now, your word list:



  1. "In the desert" by Crane is one of my all-time favorite poems.

  2. Love the word list and Stephen Crane...Thanks as always Shay for te inspiration.

  3. I swear, Shay, your word lists are getting finer and finer, by Jove! Absolutely adore this one and could feel the ghost of Crane at my elbow: his the inspiration, yours the word charms, mine the creative battle from which I did not run. Okay. I'll stop.

    1. I love what you say about feeling the ghost of Crane at your elbow as you wrote. It's a kind of magic, isn't it? Thank you for all that you've said, both here and on my poem, Stevie Nicks is a huge favorite of mine.

  4. You've really done a fine job with this list, Shay. Crane is a favorite of mine as well, one of the most under-valued poets out there and deserves a far larger readership. I had no idea he only lived to 28! Remarkable opus for such a brief life. Anyway, I am out of sorts this week, but I have copied the words down and will see what I can do. Thanks for all your work on this.

  5. I love all the detailed story line you have on him. It is so sad that he lived such a short life, but he certainly packed so much into his years. As always your list is rich with history my friend! Love this!


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