Sunday, September 20th, 2009 | Author:

As I trekked around F’burg this morning with my dog Groundhog, I was listening to a podcast from The Memory Palace about Marconi, credited often with inventing the radio.


According to Nate DiMeo, late in his life, Marconi came to believe that sound waves never disappeared, but rather went on and on, infinitely in time and space, and that if he could just find the right frequency, he could listen to the past– to great speakers and figures and historical events, to the praise of others that would ensure he would live beyond his imminent death, to the most intimate of moments in his own life.

I was thinking about this tonight as I read the poem “So Long!” from Songs of Parting, in which Whitman announces his own departure from the text, from the stage, from the world.  (Isn’t there a great tension in the line “To conclude—I announce what comes after me”?)

“I remember I said…”, says Whitman. “Hasten, throat, and sound your last! / Salute me– salute the day once more.  Peal the old cry once more.”


Screaming electric, the atmosphere using,

At random glancing, each as a notice absorbing,

Swiftly on, but a little while alighting,

Curious envelop’d messages delivering…


So I pass—a little time vocal, visible, contrary,

Afterward, a melodious echo, passionately bent for—

(death making me really undying)


Remember my words—I love you—I depart from


I am as one disembodied, triumphant, dead.

If Whitman is sounding his voice out into the ages, then I am Marconi (we are Marconi), hand at the dial, turning so, so slowly and carefully to get out the static– or maybe wildly turning the dial left to right and back, trying to find the frequency on which we can really, truly hear Whitman, the real Whitman (won’t he please stand speak up?).  For all the sound and fury signifying everything that Whitman generates, for all the meta-discussion of his own voice, I am straining across the ages trying to hear it for myself, sure with that same certainty that afflicted Marconi that it is still resonating.

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  1. Gardner says:

    You had me at station identification.

    Very beautiful, Mara.

    “Failing to find me at first, keep encouraged….”

  1. Eternal Frequencies at bavatuesdays

    […] Scanlon, who is quickly becoming a blogger extraordinaire, just blogged about a podcast by Nate DiMeo that discusses Guglielmo Marconi vision of sound waves as a crazy […]

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