Exploring Whitman

Just another Looking for Whitman weblog

Jess Pike for November 17

Filed under: Uncategorized — November 16, 2009 @ 12:25 am

“I announce a man or woman coming, perhaps you are the one, (So long!) (610)

This line from Whitman’s final poem in the deathbed edition of Leaves of Grass, So Long!, can be interpreted in a countless number of ways. So, after this weeks readings, I feel that each of the poets are striving to be “the one”. “The one” would be the next great grey poet who would continue Whitman’s legacy. Higgins explains that Whitman was revolutionary in the literary world because Whitman made sex and the body within poetry possible, he was the first major poet whose major works were created using free verse, he utilized everyday images and experiences, and he created the example of the American poet as a prophet (Higgins 440). Although aspects of these four legacies can be seen in all of the poets we had to read for today, in this post I am going to look specifically at the poet Carl Sandburg. So, although Carl Sandburg did not give any personal “shout outs” to Walt Whtiman like Federico Garcia Lorca did in “Ode to Walt Whitman”, Carl Sandburg echoes Whitman’s revolutionary style.

One of the most noticeable literary devices that both Carl Sandburg and Whitman utilized was free verse. Also, when looking at “Chicago” by Carl Sandburg and comparing it to Whitman’s “Mannahatta”, readers can see that Sandburg, like Whitman, uses lists to capture the image of both cities. Sandburg immediately creates a visual picture of the residents of Chicago by listing occupations “Hog Butchter”, “Tool maker”, “Stacker of Wheat”. Whitman also uses lists throughout “Mannahatta” and describes the people as “immigrants”, “ship-merchants”, and “money brokers” (585). In class we have discussed how Whitman’s listing is often thought of as excessive and how we can just skim the catalogs of names. However, Carl Sandburg must have found this tool necessary in order to get his message to readers.

Another similarity between both writers is their prophet like voice. In Sandburg’s “Grass”, he announces “I am the grass; I cover all”. Just like Whitman who claims he is the “poet of commonsense and of the demonstrable and of immortality” (48). Another poem of Sandburg’s that was not included in this weeks reading, but demonstrates Sandburg’s prophetic voice is “I Am The People, The Mob”.  Sandburg, like Whitman tries to speak to and represent the masses. In this poem Sandburg writes, “Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me?” Both writers demonstrate how the written word is powerful, has answers, and can withstand time.

Whitman and Sandburg also personally address the reader. Whitman creates intimacy with his audience by using words such as “you” “dear reader”. Similarly, in “Chicago” and “I Am The People, The Mob”, Sandburg uses “you” and “your”. Whitman and Sandburg also write in the first person. Since both writers begin lines with “I” both writers are demonstrating their powerful presence within the poem itself. Furthermore, the “I” repetition in Sandburg’s “I Am The People, The Mob” echoes Whitman’s “I” repetition in “Song of Myself”. By using the first person, both writers reveal their observations, ideas, and hopes for America. The personal pronoun, I, also adds to their prophetic nature, because they seem to have the secrets and knowledge about humanity and the world.

Whitman’s presence is evident in Carl Sandburg’s work. Although Sandburg wrote during the early and mid 1900’s, Whitman’s legacy is still alive in his works. In his article, Higgins demonstrates how Whitman did contain multitudes and how Whitman continues to contain multitudes through the works of later poets. I feel that Whitman would be proud to know that his legacy is still alive today and that his written words are certainly immortal.

1 Comment »

  1. tallersam:

    Jess, I think that the lists really stand out when the two cities are placed side-by-side. The characteristics that they list really serve to separate Chicago from Manhattan. I didn’t really give Whitman’s lists a second thought when I first read them. However, those lists were always inclusive: Whitman did not use them as a means of contrasting. Of course, Sandburg isn’t either but, if we have Whitman in mind when we read the lists, it serves to firmly establish him as the “Poet of the Midwest.”

    I also think that Sandburg has the same pride in Chicago that Whitman has in Manhattan. The characteristics that Whitman lists in ‘Mannahatta’ seem more akin to the lists that open and close Sandburg’s poem. They are more general and pride-inspiring. However, Sandburg cites the seedier aspects of the city specifically and uses them as an explanation for why Chicago is so great. I think that, like Whitman, Sandburg is pointing to a liveliness in the lower class that the rich (perhaps those that would question the worthiness of Chicago) lack.

    I don’t know if Carl Sandburg is Whitman’s poetic ubermensch, but I think that ‘Chicago’ takes things just a little further than ‘Mannahatta’ does, for what it’s worth.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



Skip to toolbar