Archive for the ‘ Poetry ’ Category

Emily: The Quiet Earthquake

New York Review

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.

Is This Profound?

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

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
himself.

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.

Longfellow Compared to Whitman

Poetry Foundation – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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.

He Made America All Right

This why Americans considered Whitman to be a great poet. He made them feel good about themselves.

He was nothing much himself, but he thought he was everything!

He celebrated Power in all its forms. But mostly in the ignorance of its people – and their eagerness to be deceived.

This was the paradox he successfully covered up – to be powerful as a nation, you have to be powerless as individuals! And sacrifice yourself to the Greater Good. As Americans were soon to do in their Civil War.

He wrote for the Mass of the People – one hundred years before Ortega y Gasset discovered them in the 1930s. They never read him, but the people who did (the Intelligentsia of the Period) liked to think that they did.


The background of the religion of my family – Mormonism – gives me an unique insight here. Whitman was subject to severe mob violence – because he was thought to be homosexual. During the same time period, Joseph Smith was dragged over the frozen ground by his heels. Later, he would be murdered. Also by a angry mob.

Americans were violent – and would remain so. And Whitman would carefully overlook this.

Whitman and Loaferism

I am reading Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography. I tried reading his Leaves of Grass, but knew I was not understanding it. Most Americans, to this date – will claim they understand and appreciate him. When they most certainly do not.

America has always had two approaches to life – one that was obsessed with success, and one that was not.

Once our family was picnicking in a park, when a hobo came wandering through, looking for food in the garbage cans. My Aunt was horrified to see him – and made an uncomplimentary remark about his character. To my surprise, my father came to his rescue “That is his chosen lifestyle!” he said.

I can also remember his attitude towards a dim-witted fellow called Shep, in our home town of Ft. Madison, Iowa. In the summer, he camped along the Mississippi River, and lived a very simple life. In the winter, he worked for the Laundry, where it was warm.

Some of the other workers tried to bully him, and he fought back. When taken before a Judge, he severely reprimanded the guys who had bullied him. After that, they left him alone.

Finding a Box of Family Letters

Poetry Magazine
The dead say little in their letters
they haven’t said before.
We find no secrets, and yet
how different every sentence sounds
heard across the years.

Be sure and look at the Related Content tab

A graduate of Stanford Business School, Gioia claims to be “the only person, in history, who went to business school to be a poet.”

The Erasure of Islam From the Poetry of Rumi

The New Yorker

I have no idea if this writer is correct or not – but I did downloaded The Essential Rumi so I could look at it for myself. I am probably not reading Rumi here – but something twice removed from him.

As when I am reading the Hebrew scriptures (the Old Testament). The translation I read is powerful in its own right, but is thousands of years removed from the original.