Monday, October 28, 2013

"... and your very flesh shall be a great poem ..."

In the preface to Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman writes to himself and the men of his time:

"This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men—go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers of families—re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body."

For some reason, that got me thinking about Emily Dickinson and wondering if Walt Whitman read any of her poetry before he died in 1892. She died in 1886. Only a few of her poems were published in her lifetime, but some of her poetry was published posthumously in 1890.  She would have been aware of Whitman, but he may or may not have read any of her poetry.  I searched around a little and found this at

"Though she was dissuaded from reading the verse of her contemporary Walt Whitman by rumor of its disgracefulness, the two poets are now connected by the distinguished place they hold as the founders of a uniquely American poetic voice." 

The little videos at the top of this post show the street next to where I live. Turning left, one goes down a steep hill which leads to downtown Bellingham. Turning right, one can keep driving east for about 50 miles until one arrives (as far as one can drive into this section of Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest) at Artist's Point parking lot which is already closed this year due to snow: 

(photo credit:  Jeff Katzer)

This morning when I woke up in the dark at 5 o'clock, I could hear the wind.  When I went out on the porch to look to the east, the sky was unusually clear.  I could see the crescent moon and Orion.  The temperature is in the 50s this afternoon, with sunshine, wind, and absolutely clear sky.  The humidity is unusually low at 27%.  Ideal weather conditions, as far as I am concerned.  A good time for walking and everything else.  This is the time of year when my flesh feels like a great poem!

One more thing:


Anonymous said...

I love being reminded of Walt Whitman. I read Leaves of Grass and Song of Myself when I was a waitress in Santa Cruz in mid-70s. He was revelatory for me, that amazing celebration of life and the human spirit.

Dominic Rivron said...

It being the Northern hemisphere, you can see Orion from here, too. The sky is a great unifier.

I really like that quote from WW - I've seen it before. It should be more widely known.