Archive for the ‘ Poetry ’ Category
And cannot help but compare Wordsworth to Walt Whitman. Both lived at the same time, and both wrote in blank verse. Both lived through violent social events – for Wordsworth, the French Revolution – and for Whitman, the American Civil War.
But Wordsworth was a deeper person, and had deeper things to say. He knew he had great things to do – but had a hard time finding out what they were.
To clarify his thoughts, he wrote a long poem – as a gift to his friend Thackery. At the time it was common for men to develop close, intimate relationship to other men. Abraham Lincoln prefered to sleep with other men, and Civil War Generals wrote other men love letters.
Wordsworth wrote this poem for his friend, that was only published after his death. At the time, successful poets were important people, and even made some money!
Poets helped other people understand their world – and other people appreciated their help.
This is the transition Walt Whitman tried to make in his poetry.
Both impulses were strong in his time – but he was not very aware of either one. He was mainly interested in being entertained – and he preferred low-brow entertainment.
He compensated for this by being as intellectual as he could – a common failure of his time.
He tried to celebrate the simple – as reflected in title Leaves of Grass – and he was more successful at this – but did not give us an adequate insight into who he was. Except in the most general terms.
It would be a hundred years before writers could do this.
More about Dickinson! Three books and a movie.
Here I sit, in my pyjamas, in my apartment in Orosi, in Costa Rica, reading the New York Review of Books, that gets flown in to me from Miami. I live at the end of a long pipeline – but I can savor everything on the Internet – and that is nearly everything!
Too much, really – but I keep getting more and more of it. The Review is full of book advertisements, and I bought two of them, in Kindle editions, from this issue alone.
As I have said before – I live in the worst of times, and the best of times.
I am reading from the Leaves of Grass this morning. And I cannot make up my mind whether this is profound, or nonsense. Or something else.
For Him I Sing,
I raise the present on the past,
(as some perennial tree out of its roots
the present on the past,)
with time and space I him dilate and
fuse the immortal laws,
To make himself by them the law unto
This has to be read as King James scripture, in the rhythms of that time.
Whitman came along a hundred years later – and no doubt intended his poetry to last as long – if not longer.
His monumental ego comes through clearly.
As you know, I have been reading Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography. And I have been surprised to discover that these two lived and wrote at the same time.
Whitman is now considered (along with Dickinson) as one of the founders of American poetry. Why?
Because, I think – Whitman was more American.
Longfellow was from New England, but more was happening, in Antebellum America, further South, centered in New York City. Whitman was part of that scene. He didn’t like it, especially – but he could not resist it.
This scene was dirty – to speak plainly – and Whitman covered himself in this mud. First, as a journalist – and then as a poet.
He thought he refined it in his writing – and perhaps he did. But Americans loved sensational writing – and he was full of it.