Each spring, poetry lovers from the five boroughs and beyond descend onto the Brooklyn Bridge to celebrate the grand arches and the poetry the East River bridges have inspired. Participants gather to cross the bridge at sunset, contemplating the verses of poets such as Walt Whitman, Marianne Moore, and Langston Hughes—those whose words brought the steel beams to life.
In 1966, Marianne Moore wrote the poem Granite and Steel, an homage to the Brooklyn Bridge, envisioned as a “double rainbow“:
Enfranchising cable, silvered by the sea,
of woven wire, grayed by the mist,
and Liberty dominate the Bay-
her feet as one on shattered chains,
once whole links wrought by Tyranny.
Caged Circe of steel and stone,
her parent German ingenuity.
“O catenary curve” from tower to pier,
implacable enemy of the mind’s deformity,
of man’s uncompunctious greed
his crass love of crass priority
obstructing acquiescent feet
about to step ashore when darkness fell
without a cause,
as if probity had not joined our cities
in the sea.
“O path amid the stars
crossed by the seagull’s wing!”
“O radiance that doth inherit me!”
—affirming inter-acting harmony!
Untried expedient, untried; then tried;
way out; way in; romantic passageway
first seen by the eye of the mind,
then by the eye. O steel! O stone!
Climactic ornament, a double rainbow,
as if inverted by French perspicacity,
John Roebling’s monument,
German tenacity’s also;
composite span—an actuality.
—by Marianne Moore
Try It: A Bridge to Life
What’s your favorite bridge? Is it a bridge you cross often or one you’ve only seen in photographs or film? Write a poem describing this bridge and what makes it special. Tell us why your favorite bridge is a bridge to life.
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Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here is a recent poem from Monica we enjoyed:
Upward arcs smile over the bridge,
supporting the path tower to tower.
Trusses in the strength of three
points: triangles span the chasm.
You can cross, one to another.
The road will hold up.
—by Monica Sharman
Photo by Vincent Lock. Creative Commons via Flickr.
Browse more Bridges & Tunnels
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How to Write a Poem uses images like the buzz, the switch, the wave—from the Billy Collins poem “Introduction to Poetry”—to guide writers into new ways of writing poems. Excellent teaching tool. Anthology and prompts included.
“How to Write a Poem is a classroom must-have.”
—Callie Feyen, English Teacher, Maryland
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- Animate: Lions & Lambs Poetry Prompt - March 12, 2018
- Poetry Prompt: Behind the Velvet Rope - February 26, 2018
Regal Golden Gate
spanning the bay underneath
you tower and bridge
Bridge, you slice through air,fog
spanning the bay below, reaching
Heather Eure says
What a fitting tribute, Katie. I especially like the phrase “slicing through air, fog…”
Thank you, Heather:)
Dan Julian says
Loose gravel used to give way to dirt under your tires
Just around the back county bend from the trestle there
Don’t know whether the road’s still mud but
I’ll bet that old rust basket yet spans Big Creek
All those criss-cross girders, once maybe gray
Brown and red now these so many years
Twenty, even, since I walked it last
In my too-long West German army surplus coat I recall,
Young, with my even younger friend Nick
Talking about how it would outlast us, that bridge.
Nick now shows his art in France and NYC and Marfa, Texas
And some of the kids I taught English are in college now (God help them)
And maybe just maybe, in some ways, Nick and I,
We’re gonna outlive that bridge.
Heather Eure says
So glad you shared your poem, Dan. I can almost smell the dirt and rust of the bridge.