American modernist Hart Crane’s poem “The Idiot” details the poet’s real-life encounters with a young man with a cognitive disability. Beginning in 1926, Crane worked on the poem through different versions through letters, manuscripts, and magazine publications until about 1932. Crane shuttled the geographic setting of the poem back and forth across the border between Florida and Cuba. With a focus on the material instantiation of these versions, this essay highlights the complex relationship between Crane’s queer speaker and the intellectually disabled man as it moves across national borders. This identification between two people with differently marginalized—and inherently sexualized—identities shifts within and outside the border of the United States, and, in this, Crane explores the nature of social marginalization as it relates to US national identity.

You do not currently have access to this content.