missvirginia on Nov 2nd 2009
Whitman in these readings makes me melancholy and anxious. His interview, the anonymous one, made me curious. I was curious because in the very first sentence, it give the address of Whitman’s brother. Despite it being anonymous, we know the date it was done, the general vicinity in which the area that Whitman was to be visiting. Perhaps when this was published, people didn’t think that connections could be made, but if any one of us wanted to (or if anyone of us were crazy enough), couldn’t we track that address down? Isn’t that the scary part of GoogleEarth? Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that the interviewers candid-tone with release of the address almost makes me want to think that Walt didn’t realize that this was going to be published or something. Maybe I’m being a worry wart. However, his whole tone in the interview is adorable. He seems to be rather self-aware which is something I expected from him, but it was magical reading it from the page, imagining his voice emanating from a snowy beard.
He says that the “great feature of future American poetry is the expression of comradeship.” I wondered while reading if he was truly being “candid” or if he had his publicity, celebrity, and criticism in mind. I would like to think that he was simply stating how he felt about American poetry. He also mentioned how Emerson was pretty much THE MAN…and he used Emerson’s letter of “recommendation” for everything to advocate Leaves of Grass. Knowing that fact, I think the validity of his answers in the interview can be seen as a publicity “stunt” of sorts. I think he definitely believes that comradeship is the future of poetry in this country, but I’m not so sure he thinks that poetry is feudal or antique. Those two words might have had a different meaning then, but now it is not so complimentary.
In this reading of Song of Myself, I can sense an impending doom. Maybe not doom as in death, but I feel like I can sense his restlessness and almost irritation at getting older. He seems to put an emphasis on the NOW. “There as never any more inception than there is now, Nor any more youth or age than there is now,” he is telling his reader to appreciate their youth and vitality. “I am satisfied–I see, dance, laugh, sing” he writes, it’s apparent that we are entering the time of his ailing health, with the past tense quotation.
I wanted to cry at his “Walt Whitman’s Last”. “Every page of my poetic or attempt at poetic utterance therefore smacks of the living physical identity, date, environment, individuality, probably beyond anything known and in style often offensive to the conventions.” I wanted to knight Walt, I want to ring my arms around his neck and make him realize that he is still touching lives, and sometimes being “offensive to the conventions”. This later Song of Myself is more prophetic in a voice that realizes he is talking to the future, the future masses; “See, steamers steaming through my poems,” he wrote. Whitman, after a few critiques of his works must have known that he could possibly be talking to students in classes studying him, 160 years later. His continued use of the past tense in melancholic tones in Leaves of Grass trails a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. I am now yearning for a more vigorous, bodily Whitman. He’s still there, I know.
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