Posted by: Erin Longbottom | 15th Sep, 2009

Erin for September 15th.

So, Whitman.



Even though Whitman uses a lot of sexual and sensual language in his poetry, I have a really hard time accepting the speaker as a sexual being. I don’t really feel like Whitman spoke to me here. In “Song of Myself” I felt really connected to a lot of those passages, there were some beautiful passages and lines that I absolutely loved. In Children of Adam, I’m not really moved (I wanted to say touched but I feel like that might be awkward…) by anything he says. It was the first time I didn’t underline anything in the text, or mark anything. I just kind of sat there thinking “Alright it’s steamy, but when’s it gonna get more profound than my grandma’s romance novels?” I wanted more from the text than intertwining, sweating bodies.

Calamus however, was a different story. Even though it was less overt than Children of Adam, there was so much more passion behind the writing. I particularly liked “Trickle Drops.” At times a little cliche, but I loved the image of “saturate them with yourself all ashamed and wet.” The entire set of poems here just seem filled with so much more life and feeling than Children of Adam. I could just be reading into this because I am considering Whitman’s sexuality, but the imagery is so much stronger to me. I thought it was interesting as well that in Children of Adam, the imagery had more to do with people themselves, and in Calamus there was a lot of nature imagery as well as some city imagery. While Children of Adam had some of that, those images factored in much more prominently in Calamus. I got the sense that maybe Whitman was suggesting that this “robust love” he was describing was both natural and progressive, especially compared to the way he presented heterosexual relationships. 

Just as a side note, I wanted to say that “I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing” reminded me of this tree I saw this summer when I visited Charleston:

The Angel Oak in Charleston, South Carolina

The Angel Oak in Charleston, South Carolina

Not my picture, but a better idea of what it looks like up close.

Not my picture, but a better idea of what it looks like up close.


Thanks for reminding us of the physicality of the oak trees, Erin. I think I agree with you about the more impressive subtleties of “Calamus.”

Leave a response

Your response:


Skip to toolbar