A Whitman waffler I am.
Do you ever get introduced to something – music, art. literature, etc., and give it half of your attention with no real intention of opening your mind to explore the possibilities of said introduction?
I did just that with this first week’s intro to Walt Whitman. You see, he was introduced after one of my first poetry loves, Ms. Emily. A poet who kept her alliances close and her feelings under the quill. A woman who set to make her own form of poetry, though, we know not if she expected it to set the world on fire, or simply to release her own fire. *
So, you see, Uncle Walt, had no chance other than a cursory glance or two….until, this afternoon. Today, after I quashed all my weekend duties into my one day off, I took the pup a ‘burban woods with a mason jar of coffee and a book I’d purchased for 1.00 years ago when I was on a poetry bender. The book, which previously I’d never read past the first page, is Michael Cunningham’s Laws for Creations, highlighting selections of favourite Walt Whitman writings of poetry and prose.
What did Cunningham write that has me now champing at the bit to read all 9 edition of Leaves of Grass before the end of this lifetime? This: [Leaves of Grass]…intoxicated outpouring, an attempt to get down on paper everything the poet had ever seen, heard, felt, or imagined, it contained passages that were gems and passages that were not. This rangy freedom of form has since become commonplace among poets, party because Whitman insisted on it. (Cunningham, xiv)
Cunningham goes on to compare Whitman to other innovators: Dante, Blake, Duchamp, et al, who broke with the times to express their art. Whitman becomes my hero in the end, though, for all that he is not, but strove to become during his lifetime.
He transformed himself into the man who would write the poem, and in doing so became something of a poem himself.
The Who’s words keep whispering in my ear when I read the above line — I’m in tune…gettin’ in tune…though unlike the song, there is meaning to be found within the words, Walt’s words, I’ll be singing soon.
*Future post re: Dickinson, did she write for an audience. When a poet writes for an audience, does it make a difference?