Walt Whitman

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Walt Whitman

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Dez. 16, 2007, 6:36pm

How is Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" holding up on your scales these days?

Bearbeitet: Dez. 28, 2007, 1:13pm

Perfect timing for me, as Walt is getting some good press these days with his inclusion in Joseph Epstein’s selection of 25 writers of Literary Genius: 25 classic writers who define English & American Writing. The Whitman essay is written by Justin Kaplan, who lauds the lecher for his viscous, vital egoism – and yes, Leaves of Grass just gets better with age – a funny paradox, because the same can’t be said of the very physical acts, longings, and body parts it so ecstatically describes.

I also, just finished reading the chapter that Jonah Lehrer wrote on Whitman in his recent Proust was a Neuroscientist. Lehrer discusses Whitman’s ‘fusion of body and soul’ as an unprecedented event in letters, and an event that precipitated the modern tendency to root everything in biology and explain every mood and behavior as an act of neurotransmission.

So, the poet I once called the poster child of self-absorbed slackers really does have some heft, some gravitas, after all. I find it so, so funny that his reputation built as his body decomposed. I think that thought might even make Emerson chuckle – or at least crack a smile. But maybe I’m flattering myself…

Touchstones...not working.

Dez. 28, 2007, 1:38pm

I always considered Kerouac to be the poster child for "self-absorbed slackers" and armchair idealists. ha

I've always seemed to carry a little affection for Mr. Whitman, while Kerouac makes me want to slap the nearest twenty-something, fake-bohemian guy living in his parents' garage apartment, but that could very well just be me.

Dez. 28, 2007, 1:55pm

Oh, no, I'm with you on Kerouac (and Capote is with us, so we know we are right).

Mr. Whitman could at least pull off some beauty.

You can sniff out the Kerouac poseurs a mile away ... looking for the scroll, man. If I could make my eyes roll any louder, I would.

Dez. 28, 2007, 2:33pm

It's still a great read for me, thanks.

Enevada, Justin Kaplan is Whitman's most-hardcore biographer, so having him be the one to write that essay makes perfect sense.

Dez. 28, 2007, 2:41pm

Kerousuwac, as one of my friends called him, had his place and time. I hardly think his work, or any of the Beats, except a few pieces from Ferlinghetti, particularly Coney Island of the Mind # 5 and Howl by Ginsburg even approach the kind of universality necessary to provide legs to a work.

Most Beat stuff, especially Kerouac's prose are personal stories of grasping life by the throat after several years in Hell, and asking the BIG questions.

There is nothing here that's new or unique, in fact On the Road was compared to The Sun Also Rises when it was published. Just another Lost Generation burning it's candle at both ends. People who "discover life" via Kerouac most likely suffered through the American High School Learning Experience in which they were taught little about life and lots about the value of belonging. When they discover Kerouac and the Beats they just wig out about how cool it is. For many of them it may be their first experience with eastern spiritual themes, but it is certainly not the best place to go for enlightenment.

"Get your motor runnin',
Head out on the highway,
Lookin' for adventure,
And whatever comes our way. . ."

Dez. 28, 2007, 2:46pm

The essay is wonderful. I've never read a biography of Whitman because, well, I just felt like I get plenty of him in Leaves of Grass. Plenty. The cup runneth over, in fact...

But I do read Leaves often, several times a year. I like it better as we both age, which amuses me.

Jan. 11, 2008, 3:46am

I've often thought that Leaves of Grass would be a great foundational text for a religion.

Mrz. 10, 2008, 3:50pm

I read the final verse as a eulogy of sorts at a friend's memorial service last month. High praise that, of both my friend and Whitman.

Jul. 1, 2014, 8:54pm

I suffered through the entire Leaves of Grass. Psycho-homo-erotic-babble, with a touch of patriotism. I'd rather watch a 90-minute Village people concert on an aircraft carrier.

Bearbeitet: Jul. 10, 2014, 10:46pm

LOL, my favorite Central American Lepidopterid.

My ol' man, a Canuck curmudgeon (who thought the rendition of "One Toke Over the Line" on the Lawrence Welk Show was a Gospel song) also thought the Village People were THE most wholesome, wonderful, patriotic, heterosexual group in the world.

Now I've got to clear my head and submit myself to at least a dozen doses of this mother-son (Elijah Blue on guitar) ditty:


Jul. 11, 2014, 6:49pm

>12 Sandydog1: I couldn't believe it about "One Toke over the Line." But it's true. It's "a modern spiritual." *snorts*

Jul. 27, 2014, 7:32pm

Lawrence Welk. This is beyond surreal:


Jul. 30, 2014, 3:58pm


Aug. 1, 2014, 1:31pm

Understanding Walt Whitman's personal background may explain a lot:


Aug. 30, 2014, 5:11pm

I hope that paper earned at least a B+.

(That was hilarious!)

Aug. 20, 2016, 12:42am

Don't forget Whitman's eye witness accounts of 'historical' events he witnessed--as a war nurse, describing Lincoln arriving in NYC as president-elect and facing a silent crowd who had gathered to see him. My favorite portion of his writings.

Bearbeitet: Mai 26, 2017, 12:00am

>8 Sutpen: Just found this thread. And Leaves of Grass are the expressions of someone very much influenced by the religion of his parents. http://fgcquaker.org/

Aug. 6, 2017, 1:03am

Whitman is one of the three writers who made me want to be a poet. I don't write like any of them that I can see, but without their influence, I likely wouldn't be writing at all.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 30, 2018, 1:41pm

WW penned the single most beautiful line in poetry for me, from Song Of The Open Road ... "Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." Reading that in grade 13 ECW changed my life, and I've been writing poetry and short fiction and non-fic for over thirty years, and still feel that same electric shock when thumbing through Leaves of Grass. Maybe not for everyone, but my tastes are wide and varied. He tops them all with that singular concept. And yes, Canada's ratio of people to place is about 3-5 per square kilometre, and in my eyes, that is still too much. Not much open road left to enjoy in the world, so I turn to the text. Often.

Fell upon this quote today;

“We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. So medicine, law, business, engineering... these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love... these are what we stay alive for.”
-- Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass --

There is much life advice contained in his observations, as he attempts to describe them, if one sets out to find it, through diligent repetition. I hope that you give it another chance to grow on you.

Mai 12, 2018, 8:50pm


Fell upon this link while looking up something else and thought perhaps the comparison of these 20 poets might help explain why Whitman is at the top of the list as the most influential, and earliest, of the modern approach to poetry.