Mark, with more give-back on the question of Crane et seq.
That it comes down to an unresolved divide between remnants of the Romantic and the new strictures of the Modern.
Wasn't it coming from Pound (with Stephen Crane, Whitman, Poe in the background, mocking, in their different ways, the enfeebled denatured exhalations of Victorian poetry) - the notion that poetry should be as exact and exacting as prose, as science? Wasn't this part of a general trend toward hardness & toughness & clear-eyed objectivity throughout 1st half of 20th cent.?
Scientific perception grounding the autonomy of the art object. Eliot's strictures : "the classic". (Stevens & Crane is a diffun't animal.)
Unable & unwilling to go too far into that huge issue. But again, it seems like Crane was working from a different basis. I think he was looking at Joyce's Ulysses as an objective correlative to the spiritual or intellectual substance - the quiddity - of Ireland & Dublin in the modern world.
The Bridge would do something similar for the aura and spiritual destiny of America. Once he found the accurate form - that is, the plot of his poem : a dawn epiphany leading through a sequence of dream-panels of American history, & through the hell-gate (Poe in the subway) to achieved affirmation (the final panel, which he actually wrote first) - once he had recognized this inner plot or structure, the specific materials fit into place. It seems important that he composed the last section first : this underlines how the methodology differs from that of Pound, WCW, Olson (stemming perhaps from The Prelude) - their long-poems-as-autobiographical-diaries, as Ulyssean nosti, as record of the poet's ongoing struggle with "the facts" & with him's artistic soul.
I understand Mark's reservations about the hifalutin' & artificial diction of some passages in The Bridge. For me these serve merely to accent the visionary strangeness, the otherness, of the whole. There are other weaknesses which are probably much more damaging (sort of a faded 20s hyperbole, a kind of febrile gusto). But again, in the several re-readings I've given the poem, there was sheer enjoyment, stimulated by the shifting forms & voicings of the sequence of panels, the melodic force of the diction, the way the two threads of "plot" (the narrator's dream-day and the flow of American history) mingled & spread, like the river at the poem's center. The pleasure of aesthetic finish, the sense of rounded completion, is a powerful effect, which should not be discounted - and which is missing from the endless ongoingness of some of the other looooong poems.