Monday, April 29, 2013

Spring Overtures- Recreations

Spring overtures include three separate days where Whitman records his thoughts subsequently. That is to say, three days- two in a row, and one 9 days later... What I found interesting about these posts were there distinct divergent voices, almost as if written from a differen person. The idea being, each day a person, a writer, an individual, carries an entirely different tone, mode of emphasis, overarching emotional field.

The first day, for example, Whitman merely catalogs his encounter of a few small birds. His phrases are short, lacking adjectives, lacking explicit emotion. The next day, we encounter extreme verbiage, lengthy phrases, decorative descriptions, and allusory detail. The third day becomes less of a catalog an more of a personal encounter, where sensory language detailing and celebrating the physicality of existence is utilized.

Where this becomes interesting, of course, is when thinking of the length it took Whitman to write Leaves of Grass, and also his further edits made in later years. Essentially, it explains the divergent voices found throughout the text, what Whitman would perhaps describe by stating he is the voice of the people, an ever-changing field of growth. Some section are clearly physical, such as the romance where a lover is to reach into the very chest of the narrator. Some sections are self reflexive, It is probably that these varying sections, similar to his journal entries, focus on different avenues of existence due to when they were written. This both accounts and explains the Whitman-esque transforming voice, morphing like leaves from one day to the next.

"I know perfectly well my own egotism,
And know my omniverous words, and cannot say any less,
And would fetch you whoever you are flush with myself."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


There was a decorated ensemble encovering the star studded night. Walt walked, two leaves blew from the trees, slowly dancing through the quiet melody of the breeze. A silent symphony, a supertonic cresendo, a magical and musical explosion. Words were heard around him, yet not the words entranced and danced with his ear drums. He heard a quiet roar as if it was raging against the silence of the progressing night.

Distantly off into the horizon, there was a curvature of light, delicately bending across the city's horizon like a wristwatch. Suddenly, out of the stale and drowsy air, those very two leaves, sombre and superb, complimented the scene like a perfect comrade, like a dream.

Be ye my Gods, Walt thought.

Walt glances toward the curve of the planet's perfect caress of Light, curved like time and space, complimenting the shape of the earth. He looks toward the orb of the full moon.

Be ye my Gods, Walt thought.

Slowly, the feet of the few approached their destination. Slowly, the explosion of a street car passed- inebriating Walt with the sound.
Slowly, the feet of the few approached.

A door eternally swings, joyfully inviting, with voices like music beautifully and intrinsicly inviting forever, like a prayer.

Be ye my Gods, Walt thought.

The heart of Manhattan drives streetcar operators through the street of this bar, each crossing the intersections of speech barriers, social classes, and religions. Happily, speeches rise with only a smile. Walt smiles, the roar reverberates, gaining momentum in a snowball affect of joy.

Realism flows through Walt's veins, a miracle, yet a divergent realism from now and every tomorrow hence. An always new realism, a continual miracle;

Be ye my Gods, Walt thought.

The friend I am with is laughing, the arm of my friend hangs idly over my shoulder, beautiful dripping fragments flow like honey into our glasses.
Slowly, the feet of a few approach.
Slowly, the sound of a streetcar explodes, inebriating the air with meaning.
Here, I heard him,

"Be ye my Gods?" Walt spake, chanting like an immortal.

Walking, enfans d'adam, Walt approaches.

Passionately, we speak, words like fingers cling together. All else, even time, is forgotten. Ages and ages hence, one word from each of our lips shall be repeated, reborn, vibrating through our lips, bathing in my ears, and loafing in my soul,

                                      "Lover" I "Together"
As if for an eternity...

One flitting glimpse, caught through an interstice of a crowd, of workmen and drivers, immediately,

Be thou my God?

Walt walks to a booth in a corner. A youth, "I love you." Softly, we whisper, gentler than a leaf. Silently, sitting next to him, fingers like words cling.

We separate, like lovers from one becoming two...

Forever forgotten aside from all, aside from two...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Whitman's Lillies and Rukeyser's Book of the Dead

One of the most important elements to a poem is the speaker, and who the speaker is speaking to. This may be found in a variety of ways, either through direct evocation (such as a speaker stating "you"), or through implicit undertones (for example, addressing readers as a group rather than an individual). Whitman's narration technique is somewhat complicated, as he addresses both a personified "you," "O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring" and then his lover directly "Where amid these you journey, With the tolling, tolling bells’ perpetual clang." Here, Whitman utilizes "you" in two extremely divergent ways. The first, directed toward "Spring," appears to be the poems muse-like evocation, as discussed more in depth in my last post. The second, directly addressed toward his lover, which allows the reader to temporarily remain in his lovers shoes, with the poet speaking directly toward them.

Rukeyser, to contrast, does two things Whitman almost never, ever does. First, she creates group differences. "These roads will take you into your own country." Where "your own country" obviously separates the audience into two separate groups, those of her country, and those of another. Whitman does not do this, not even in Leaves of Grass, instead, Whitman tries to unify. Both are effective for their own purposes, of course, Whitman provides a type of bond with his reader, whereas Rukeyser's provides two lenses through which to understand the poem, seemingly, an outsider and an insider.

These two show the significance of not only a poet's speaker, but a speaker's target audience, and also the ways in which that audience is characterized. Obviously, each technique will evoke a varying response from the onlooker, it becomes an authorial decision. Either you try to unify an outsider (this being an audience member from outside of ones own country), or you try to celebrate these differences. Granted, there are those who might wish to attack such differences, however, such negativity hardly deserves mention. Regardless, although I dislike comparing the effectiveness of two poets, I believe Whitman's evokes a more powerful and positive response (though not necessarily due to their evocation of "you"), mostly because Whitman isn't speaking about warring with another.

The two come to fairly similar conclusions regarding the speakers understanding and acceptance of death. Whitman finds a way to celebrate it, deciding through it all, his lover will live always, forever reborn inside of his own heart. Rukeyser, too, places the dead into a category of "unending love." Also, the two compare death to a plant, a useful vehicle for a metaphor in this case because, they, like a feeling, go through several rebirth cycles.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

When Lilacs Bloom

Whitman's elegy entitled When Lilacs Last in the Door-Yard Bloom'd is attempting to grapple with the vastly complicated issue of death. The poem's initial stanza cycles betwixt two contrasting ideas, spring and mourning. The vehicle of spring is utilized to provide the reader with a way to cope with death- rebirth. Lilacs, flowers, and spring are well known for their cyclical nature- they die, and are then reborn. These flowers are symbolic for this living condition; the recycling nature of Earth. However, Whitman uses this semi-ironically; evoking Spring, typically a season known for its rebirth principles, its newness, and its freshness, then counter-balances this with death, mourning, and despair.

"O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring;
Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love." (Lines 4, 5, and 6).

Here, Whitman evokes Spring, his poem's natural muse, and also "him I love," his human muse. By doing this, Whitman devises a technique for coping with the loss of the latter. He seems to be presenting the idea that like his natural muse,which is ever-returning, so will his love. His love thus shall become ever-returning, ever-reborn, ever-true- blooming like a lilac in Spring.

"Must I leave thee, lilac with heart-shaped leaves?
Must I leave thee there in the door-yard, blooming, returning with spring?" (Lines 196 and 197).

Late in the poem, Whitman proposes two questions, exposing the narrator's concerns with the loss of his lover. Love, after you have died, must I leave you behind? Or will you once again bloom, away from me, returning with spring? At the very end of the poem, Whitman answers his narrator's questions, "Lilac and star and bird, twined with the chant of my soul..." He concludes that even after losing the lilac and his lover, they shall become ever intertwined with his soul.

Coping with death is a theme transcendent in literary history. Modernity has begun to recycle this theme as well, including a plethora of poems responding to the tragedy of 9/11. Two examples of poets responding to the events are Robert Pinsky's 9/11, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti's History of the Airplane.

Ferlinghetti's poem recounts the history of the airplane, both with respect to tragedy and joy.

Pinksky's touches on firefighters writing social security numbers on their arms, Colonel Donald Duck, the narrative of Fredrick Douglass, and mystic masonic totems. And, quite simply, does it beautifully.

Ferlinghetti's poem also compares and contrasts two diverging ideas, peace with tragedy. Similar to Whitman's poem, there is a type of irony. The Wright Brothers, who invented their machine for peace, create a vehicle for war. This is, of course, one of the tragedies to the living condition- often our expectations and intentions sadly turn into something else, even while someone else is striving to achieve similar ends. Even the 9/11 tragedy was a group of people striving for peace, they just had an entirely different perspective on how to achieve that peace. It is unfortunate that some believe violence, destruction, or war will ever bring about peace. Ferlinghetti's poem evokes powerful imagery in its climax, reminding us of 9/11's complete and utter sadness,

"There is chaos and despair
And buried loves and voices
Cries and whispers
Fill the air

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Updating Updates!

To explore Whitman further, and to also dabble into his stance on homosexuality, I'm thinking of crafting some type of short story- embedding quotes and details from the poem as well as seeking to enhance the tone, themes, and motifs. I believe this would be an interesting story, both in terms of exploring the speaker's sexuality, as well as the secretive nature of their meeting in the bar. I'm a huge fan of secret romances, so I think it could be a powerful story.

A GLIMPSE, through an interstice caught,
Of a crowd of workmen and drivers in a bar-room, around the stove,
late of a winter night--And I unremark'd seated in a corner;
Of a youth who loves me, and whom I love, silently approaching, and
seating himself near, that he may hold me by the hand;
A long while, amid the noises of coming and going--of drinking and
oath and smutty jest,
There we two, content, happy in being together, speaking little,
perhaps not a word.

By, Walt Whitman

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Peter Doyle

One of the attributes to a famous artist most overlook is their humanness, the attributes that make us a human being. Did Shakespeare have a best friend? Did Chaucer enjoy drinking tea? Did Homer ever have a lover? Artists become a figure of greatness to most, a position which tends to dehumanize them.

Peter Doyle and Whitman were intimate friends, so intimate, some believe the two may have been lovers. After reading about Doyle's life, it becomes apparent why a writer would have cherished him, not only as an individual, but also as a type of muse. Doyle, a commonly educated man, was a soldier, prisoner of war (which he escaped from), an attendee of the play where Abraham Lincoln was shot, a street car worker, a railroad worker... Basically, Doyle was a figure Whitman could view as a flawless American, one who experienced nearly every huge historical feat of the century.

The two sent a group of letters back and forth, which were stored and later published. One interesting aspect to this publication is the type of fame Doyle was able to recieve merely by being a friend of Whitman. Reviewers of the letters initially wished there were more written by Doyle! It's fairly interesting to think a relatively unliterate man draws forth more reader interest than one of the most famous poets history has to offer.

Regardless of fame and historical acclaim, the two had one of the best relationships in literary history. Doyle's emotional attachment to Whitman is, to say the least, touching. Doyle recounts his attempts to keep Whitman alive even after death, merely to be close to the man.

"I have Walt's raglan here [goes to closet—puts it on]. I now and then put it on, lay down, think I am in the old times. Then he is with me again. It's the only thing I kept amongst many old things. When I get it on and stretch out on the old sofa I am very well contented. It is like Aladdin's lamp. I do not ever for a minute lose the old man. He is always near by. When I am in trouble—in a crisis—I ask myself, 'What would Walt have done under these circumstances?' and whatever I decide Walt would have done that I do."

Upon his passing, Whitman gave Doyle a silver watch. This silver watch signifies not only the lasting friendship of the two, but also stands as a symbol for the duration of time Whitman and Doyle had been friends. A fairly beautiful friendship, one which shines brighter than silver and is worth more than gold.

Rereviewing Reviews and Reviewers

For my next major project, I shall either approach the reviewers reviews of Whitman's Leaves of Grass from a few specific schools of criticism, or I will paint a type of word portrait of Whitman utilizing text from his Leaves of Grass. While the first will expand my knowledge of modern day techniques of criticism, the second will increase my knowledge of Leaves of Grass through a careful selection of thematic phrases, while also developing my artistic abilities. To expand on both ideas, I wish to approach reviews of Whitman's text because it becomes a type of exponential learning, reflecting on anothers reflections. Also, varying forms of criticism are fairly central to the modern day literary scene, such as deconstructionism, new historicism, formalism, and even types of psycho-semantics. This would prove helpful because I would become more familiarized with directions literary critics take while sorting through literary works. A painting, however, could prove extremely aesthetically pleasing, while also promoting this type of hybridity which overwhelms todays artistic front. Combining various artforms, here poetry and painting, would expand both markets, as well as allowing me to freely delve between fairly rich artistic material. Artistically speaking, there are a series of techniques which would be integrated to derive a completely unique creation. My only limitations are my current lack of photoshop, which would open doors to craft a type of 3D image (possible utilizing calculus, too, just less precise).
Would require further research of outside critical techniques, or a focus primarily on Whitman's text. Essentially, each would prove to be a powerful learning process, they simply focus on two different types of art- one visual, and one textual.