missvirginia on Sep 13th 2009
As I was reading for this posting, I had something on my mind. In one of my other English classes, someone insinuated Whitman as just a gay old man. He said some more unsavory things towards my Whitman, and I immediately shot up my hand and said that I was in love with Whitman and did not take kindly to what he’d said.
Funny enough, in From Pent-up Aching Rivers (248), one of the first poems in the readings, I feel like there are so many allusions to bisexuality. Or maybe, not even bisexuality, just embracing all things sensual, intimate, and physical. Just on the fifth line, he mentions a phallus. Not to be “fifth grade” or anything, but hey! Phallic suggestion! Then he goes into the songs of “procreation, Singing the need of superb children and therein superb grown people” which reminded me of the physically obsessed Romans. It was a city-state obsessed with being the best physically, mentally, and seemingly always prepared for battle. Ironically enough, I’m sure Whitman’s rumored homosexuality was a battle for him, if he had ever been blatant about it.
The next line is “Singing the muscular urge and the blending”, which when I first read it, it seemed to be very cut and dry. The “muscular urge” is obvious phallic imagery and the blending is heterosexual intercourse. However, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed interchangeable. The muscular urge could be for both types of sex, because everyone (mostly…) orgasms which is a muscular urge/twitch/whatever. And the blending is describing the bodies creating that “superb child”. Even if the line is describing homosexual sex, blending could also describe the “two becoming one”-ness about sex.
Later on, after the swimmer lines, he lists “the mystic derliria, the madness amorous, and the utter abandonment”. I started thinking, is that the cycle for sex or relationships? I’m thinking it’s both–there is the initial attraction, the infatuation and “lust/love at first sight” ordeal. If we were to look at this from a relationship point of view, then there’s the content, “I love you, you love me, we can make this work forever” stage. Lastly, cue the jaws music…there’s the “utter abandonment”, the breakup. In sex, there’s the initial arousal that is called mystic deliria (catchy), then the main course…the madness amorous…and then the climax/refractory period where the feelings of abandonment can come in to play.
Whitman was pretty much exalting and proclaiming love. Love in armies (i.e. I Sing the Body Electric), love for women (i.e. A Woman Waits for Me), love in friendships with the same sex (i.e. Out of the Rolling Ocean the Crowd). In the words of Whitman himself, “Have you ever loved the body of a woman? Have you ever loved the body of a man? Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all in all nations and times all over the earth?” I think Whitman wanted people to be able to look past the body, to look within the person.
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