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Hart in Recline Hand-painted Digital Collage 7.25” x 4.25”

I found a first edition of Phillip Horton’s 1937 biography of Hart Crane in a Manhattan bookstore in the mid-1980s. It is the only book I have read three times. I can’t say why I find his story so compelling. I don’t identify with the poet. He was a difficult, demanding friend, self-destructive, alcoholic. Still, he remained true to himself whether it pertained to his art or his homosexuality. It would be another fifteen years until I read a far better, more comprehensive biography of Crane’s life in Clive Fischer’s, Hart Crane: A Life.

In the summer of 1996 weeks before the birth of my daughter, I wrote a few paragraphs about the band Interview for a friend’s music website. A year and a half later I received an email from an associate professor in the depart of Cognitive Sciences at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana who had read my brief statement about the band and wrote that he had tracked down and interviewed the band’s singer/lyricist, Jeff Starrs. He invited me to visit his website where he had posted the transcript of their email dialogue. The piece concluded with Starr’s email address.

After reading the interview, I wrote Jeff Starrs expressing how much I had enjoyed his music all these years. My note ended with an offer: should he ever be in Chicago, I would buy him dinner as a form of partial payment for the years of pleasure I received listening to his music. He wrote back a few days later thanking me for my note. He replied that he’d love to have dinner, but that he lived in Toulouse, France.

A few days later I learned I would be going to Europe for business. I contacted Starrs and we arranged to meet for dinner. I traveled all day by train from Milan to Toulouse. An hour after I arrived I was dining with Starrs. We talked for hours about everything except Interview. Toward the end of the meal I said, “Jeff, I have only one question for you about your Interview days. What compelled you to write the song about Hart Crane?” I explained that the lyrics sparked a lifelong fascination with the poet’s life. He replied that he thought Crane’s life made a great story, perhaps even greater than the poet’s work.