‘The Mighty Task is Done’ by Joseph P. Strauss
Raised in a family of artists, young Joseph P. Strauss dreamt of pursuing a career in poetry. He never became a famous artist, but he ended up building one of the most famous bridges in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge. He campaigned without rest for its construction despite the reluctance of environmentalists, engineers and city administrators, and wrote the poem ‘The Mighty Task is Done‘ upon completion of the Bridge in May 1937.
“At last the mighty task is done;
Resplendent in the western sun
The Bridge looms mountain high;
Its titan piers grip ocean floor,
Its great steel arms link shore with shore,
Its towers pierce the sky.”
‘View from a Temporary Window’ by Joanie Mackowski
As the Boston Review writes, Joanie Mackowski’s awarded ‘View from a Temporary Window‘ is filled with wildness and art, creating a dream-like atmosphere in which the Golden Gate Bridge appears as a symbol between the fictitious and the real. Bits of information are combined with a bizarre, imaginary world that challenges the reader’s mind: her words won’t be so temporary as the window in the poem’s title.
“And a new picture window jut
over the cliff to frame all the Golden Gate’s
red seismograph, with cuts
through the fog to the headlands.”
‘The Changing Light’ by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Founder of the City Lights magazine and bookstore, Ferlinghetti was named the first poet laureate of San Francisco in 1998, and the city has a street named in his honor. Ferlinghetti brings alive scenes of San Francisco through his vision of the city, expressed in his poetry. ‘The Changing Light‘ is an ode to the Golden Gate and its light – a light that many say can’t be compared to any other.
“And the light of fog
blanketing the hills
drifting in at night
through the Golden Gate
to lie on the city at dawn.”
‘The Golden Gate’ by Edward Pollock
Not much is known of Edward Pollock, besides that he was an American poet that moved to San Francisco in 1852 and wrote for the Pioneer magazine. He wrote ‘The Golden Gate,’ a beautiful masterpiece that speaks of the views of the Golden Gate as a sign of spiritual ascendancy in opposition to the greedy, hedonistic quality of the men that cross it by ship.
“So, praise to God! who brings the day
That shines our regrets and fears away;
For the blessed morn I can watch and wait.
While the clouds come in through the Golden Gate.”
‘The Golden Gate’ by Vikram Seth
‘The Golden Gate‘ is a novel in verse by poet and writer Vikram Seth. This poem is composed of 590 sonnets that narrate the life of protagonist John Brown and his yuppie friends in San Francisco. Even if the concept of a novel in verse may sound odd, it is beautiful and it works, resulting in a highly politicized work that deals with themes such as homosexuality, feminism or civil disobedience.
That, when he was a child, the mystery
Of San Francisco’s restless spark,
It strikes him now as, through the park,
Wrested from old dunes by the westward
Thrust of the greenbelt to the slow
Pacific swell, his footsteps go.”
‘Golden Gate Haiku’ by Nicolas Grenier
This haiku about the Golden Gate is actually not a real haiku, a form of Japanese poetry that requires verses of only 17 syllables, but it still remains a fun, easy-to-read piece about the San Francisco Bay. It was written by French poet Nicolas Grenier, one of the most prolific poets of the young generation in the francophone culture.
golden and gate
‘Lonidier Rampant’ by Katherine Hastings
Not all poets see the Golden Gate Bridge through rose-colored glasses. Katherine Hastings’ poem ‘Lonidier Rampant‘ refers to Lynn Lonidier, an exceptional activist poet who committed suicide by jumping off a cliff in San Francisco in 1993. The woman in the poem considers the Golden Gate Bridge to end with her life: ‘Cool fingers of fog have been waiting / All these years / Knowing one day you’d be theirs.’ She is not the only one to link the Bridge to suicide, as other poets have done so too. Hastings seems to identify herself with Lonidier in a captivating poetic piece that deals with longing for love and nostalgia.
“The bridge Lonidier and the sea Lonidier
And the dark morning hours
Chew through your brain
Looking for innocence
‘At the Golden Gate’ by Henry Morford
On a lighter note, ‘At the Golden Gate’ talks about the redeeming quality that the Golden Gate has on the poet, who witnesses the views almost as a religious mirage. Passionate about travel, journalist and play writer Henry Morford also felt captivated by the beauty of the Golden Gate and wrote about it long before the Bridge was built. This ode to the channel where the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean meet dates back to 1862, and speaks to the beauty of the region in a way few other have.
“The Golden Gate, indeed! where cliffs stand sentry,
And mountains heavenward lift their giant forms,
And western gales make rough and dangerous entry
To havens that shut away the wildest storms”