Mark also makes some astute observations on Hart Crane (btw I'm 53, Mark - y'gads!).
Just got in to work, & want very much to respond carefully to this (want to give Crane his due), but will probably just go on off the top of my head as usual.
There are stretches of bombast & sentimentality in The Bridge. There are also lines & passages of overstuffed diction which are hard to pronounce, much less swallow.
Yet I think the poem succeeds as a distinct long poem despite its weaknesses. It succeeds as a sustained reading experience, as a lyrical plot, as a continuous reading pleasure - in ways that the efforts by Pound, WCW, Olson & Zukofsky do not.
What is the secret of difference here? It may have something to do with Crane's continued use of metrical lines - tetrameter[tks E.S.] & pentameter iambics. The metric offered a bass line, a foundation, for a very crucial extension of the lyric poem into the longer sequence, and the sequence into a sequence-of-sequences, to make up the whole.
What Crane's method does is stimulate a sort of "lyric objectivity". In Cantos, Paterson, "A", Maximus - by contrast - the poet is always in the foreground - maddeningly, ironically - despite the poet-histor's best efforts to import tons of supposedly objective, historical, documentary matter. (Zukofsky is probably a special case - ie. he worked his way out of this situation. But what laborious effort shows!)
Pound, if you listen to his recordings, really aimed for the ancient-Yeatsian vatic chant. But oddly I think Crane is more successful at melding antiquity & modernity, by sticking closer to the orotund pentameter of Shakespeare & Marlowe. (He practiced this beforehand, very effectively, in "For the Marriage of Faustus & Helen".) This vatic manner bore fruit - because, astonishingly, the little frisson of beautifully-made small lyric poems was extended & expanded into an epic-odic manner, the grand & ecstatic singing of many sections of The Bridge.
Finally, there is humor in Crane - but it's subversive & veiled. See Paul Giles, Hart Crane : the contexts of The Bridge on his multivalent puns. Other essential studies:
Lee Edelman, Transmemberment of Song
and especially : Werner Berthoff, Hart Crane, a re-introduction
Crane's letters to Yvor Winters (before Winters repudiated him) are terrific technical shop talk.
But perhaps Mark & others remain unmoved for reasons other than technical & musical. Mark mentions something about the authoritarianism implicit in Crane's mode of Platonic idealism. I don't see it. What I see instead is a certain vulnerability in Crane's faith in the capability of poetic vision to offer a finished image of Eden or Paradise. The stock-in-trade of Pound, Olson & WCW is to invite the reader into the poet's unfinished struggle with the unfinished project of world-renewal. (Zukofsky, again, is a different case.) One participates in the poet's heroic though necessarily incomplete agon.
Crane's whole approach is different. He offers the image of the Brooklyn Bridge as a kind of analogical token or icon - the "Ever-Presence", the earthly, human gateway into paradisal reality. The equilibrium of the poem depends from (I should say "suspends" from), & partakes in, this glimpsed sphere of perfection. The bridge was the summa of the whole effort of American 20th-cent. writing, epitomized by Waldo Frank's paeans to Our America, etc.
It may be this Platonic-national idealism - the substance of Crane's argument, which rhymes with his notion of aesthetic beauty - that postmodern readers find hard to accept.