Virginia for November 17

missvirginia on Nov 16th 2009

The one thing that really struck me in the reading, made me mad. MADE ME PISSED OFF!! Funny enough, it was in the first few sentences of the entire reading. “The master-songs are ended, and the man/That sang them is a name” from Higgins’ essay just enraged me. It was like someone just read over one of Walt’s poems and didn’t care about the life, the experiences he had, or anything that went in to the poetry. But then I felt better once I read Higgins’ hypothesis of how our Walt became “Walt Whitman”. His poetry being too “pure” is a beautiful way of putting how the poems seem to almost go beyond people today, go over their heads, and that is why he isn’t as “popular” as other poets.

Higgins’ four elements that made Whitman the icon that he is are nicely insightful and agreeable. One thing that I thought of immediately when reading that is how the timing of his poetry and life were quite impeccable for each other. Higgins’ third item in the list is how he made sex and the body possible in poetry. I have to say that if he hadn’t published most of the poems right after the Civil War (specifically the 1867 edition), the criticism of his “bawdy”-ness (no pun intended) would have been so much more and more scathing. Yet, the country’s idea of the human body was still evolving and changing rapidly; especially with the frankness naked soldiers had to be dealt with. There was no point in trying to be “appropriate” when a man had shrapnel covering his thighs and crotch area.

Using that as a segway, Pound’s chapter was hilarious! But I loved how he used America’s bad things, like the crudeness and hollow feelings that exist in this nation, both in a physical/geographical sense of the word and in the people. It was beautifully written to be realistic, complementary, and rude at the same time. I totally agree with Pound’s overall theme; there is no other American poet who captures the rawness of the nation. He represents the different areas, he mentions the forests, the streets, the beaches, and the people. He keeps most of the poems as if the reader were his eye. His descriptions of the scenes he writes about create a very distinct feeling for the reader; it is intimate.

In the selected readings on the blog, Hart Crane seemed to most channel Whitman. The punctuation, rhythm, and word usage screamed Whitmaniac :) I’ve never read Allen Ginsberg before, but America made me want to go buy a book of his. Especially America being so scathingly judgemental and ugly. Yet, people are that. People are beautiful too, and maybe because I’m such an optimistic people person the poem’s high criticism doesn’t bother me at all. I think Whitman would have appreciated the poem, but probably wished that there had been some sort of positive reinforcement that American, despite it’s issues is beautiful. But maybe, just maybe that is what makes America beautiful; that I can walk down the street and see a homeless person peeing on the sidewalk, that when I turn on the News at 6 there is rarely good news on. We look at those things like they’re ugly, but it’s part of humanity, it’s part of what we are living with today. So to channel Walt, embrace it and the ugliness, according to Higgins, will rectify itself in the future. We just have to keep plugging away.

Filed in Uncategorized

3 Responses to “Virginia for November 17”

  1. Avatar of abcwhitman abcwhitman says:

    Whitman + Inspiration = Great Blog Post!

    (and that is the extent of my math skills).

    Whitman certainly does find beauty in the “grit” of America, something Higgins draws attention to when discussing Carl Sandburg’s work. Whitman celebrates time and time again the common man, the working man, and despite his literary success and long-lasting legacy, never lived a life of luxury himself. Both Sandburg and Whitman praise the importance of work that’s dirty and raw and honest, i.e. work that most everyone complains about, and work that all of us earning our college degrees are trying to avoid. But there is something genuine, something more rewarding than sitting at a computer screen– to feel physically exhausted at the end of the day, to have tangibly created something, or destroyed something, or fixed something, is a wholly different feeling of satisfaction. It’s a bit ironic, admittedly, that POETS are writing about this, but someone has to and we know Whitman worked hard during the war.

    I suppose the point I’m trying to make along with your point is that some times the things we look down upon are really pretty darn great. I mean, no one wants to be the person who cleans out porta-Johns but it would be really shitty (literally) if it never got done, so we should be grateful for those who do it. You smell what I’m steppin’ in?

  2. Virginia, I think you bring up an interesting point at the end of this blog. Embracing the ugliness of humanity and everything else that comes with it is (I agree) exactly the kind of thing Whitman would suggest. But, I think he would urge this only in the sense that a person cannot fully understand how to love something or someone unless it can embrace every part of it or him/her, even those parts he disagrees with. This is perhaps why Whitman had to help in the hospitals; he had to embrace the sick and dying soldiers in order to fully love his country, he had to get down into the grit of despair in order to come out with a smile on his face. It is something I hadn’t thought of before, but I do think it makes sense and I agree that Whitman might have said to Ginsberg, “Boy, this is good, but where’s the light?”

    (And you should buy Howl …I really think you would enjoy it)

  3. Avatar of bcbottle bcbottle says:

    I definitely agree with you Virginia about Whitman being all about embracing everything, even the ugly. I agree with Chelsea as well that he wanted to embrace it to see the great in everything else. I think that part of this was because he felt that one could not truly change things without understanding them at their worst. How would Whitman have become the Wound Dresser without the Civil War? It took something terrible and ugly for him to realize his calling as a caretaker.

    In this way I think he was all about embracing the ugly, but as Erin talked about in her post, he was all about hope for the future.

Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar