Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Leaves of Grass

I've been reading Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass recently, usually a couple of pages when I put Graham to bed. Both of my precociously smart-assed kids have pointed out that the title doesn't make sense. They are more lawyers than poets at this stage.

But it's quite a breath of fresh air to read Whitman. I was initially inspired by recalling the line "I embrace multitudes," which it turns out comes from him, and indeed he does. Whitman invokes the whole of America that was known to him at the time, from sea to shining sea, from head to toe, from peak to vale, from club to gutter. I am reminded of the comparisons that were made between Whitman and Mayakovsky a quarter century ago when I was writing about the latter.

The most important thing I find in reading Whitman, and perhaps I need to move to this strategy for all poetry, is to just read the words that are written there and keep going, to not continually loop back and go over it again and try to read into it and suss it out.

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