Monday, May 14, 2012

Final Project! and Evaluation.

Here is my final project, the cento poem regarding the perspectives of slavery, the west, and the Free Soil Movement. I used lines from Whitman's Calamus poems, William Cullen Bryant's 'America' and 'A Northern Legend', John Greenleaf Whittier's 'At Port Royal 1861' and 'Song of the Negro Boatmen', Langston Hughes' 'A Dream Deferred', and various quotes from Whitman and the Free Soil Party.

The Cry of [the] Free Man
[for the protection of the liberty of whites]

O western orb sailing the heaven,
OH mother of a mighty race,
I will escape from the sham that was proposed to me.

Like a raisin in the sun
every wrong shall die
by the lone rivers of the West.

[Like] the joy of uncaged birds
shall sit a nobler grace than now
where field and garner, barn and byre.

Labor must not be degraded.
[It] must shape our good or ill,
drop strength and riches at thy feet,
[give] power, at thy bounds.

The thronging years in glory rise
for the starved laborer...
[So with] a hand like ivory fair
Fight on and Fight ever
[For] sea-winds blow from east and west
[but] the clouds are coming swift and dark.

Class evaluation:
I'm not sure if I have many quarrels with how the course was ran. I really enjoyed how each class was led as more of a discussion than a lecture for it got me to think more critically about Whitman's work and learn new perspectives [from fellow students] that I would have never been exposed to if the class were set up any differently. The course load did seem a bit overwhelming at times since we had to respond to the tweet of the week, specimen days, and a poem, but over all I learned a lot and enjoyed meeting online as well as in the classroom. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Whitman: The Dude

Prompt #1

Of the few movies I have seen by the Coen Bros, it seems like the contents in which they explore all tend to gravitate around the idea of taking average, common day people and putting them in extraordinary situations they would never normally find themselves in. The Big Lebowski for example, The Dude is the epitome of your run of the mill guy, unemployed, part of a bowling league, does the same thing day in and day out.. but gets mistaken for a millionaire lebowski and has to be part of some heisty situations, people start dying, people shit on his rug etc. In Burn After Reading, the same thing happens except replace the dude and his friends with a couple of gym employees and the mistaken identity is a swap of a bag or the handling of an important CIA disc (can't remember exactly). In a very rough, simplistic analysis, it seems as though the Coen Bros are trying to elevate the hopes and status of the average person by saying we are all privileged enough to be in these situations. OR it could just be a very good formula for entertainment: put someone in a situation they know nothing about and watch them run around like a chicken with their head cut off.

In relation to Whitman, he is doing somewhat of the same thing. Celebrating the average american by trying to elevate them to a status worthy of 'poetry' and 'scholars.' What the Coen Bros and Whitman are saying is that we are all worthy of entertainment topics, to say the least, so when we see ourselves up on the big screen or in the latest Whitman poem, we feel acknowledged, accepted, privileged, special etc. One good example would be Whitman's Song for Occupations: he literally lists occupations, and it's almost like we're going through a list, searching for our names, as if wondering "did we get accepted?"

One difference I must mention though is that in the Coen Bros movies, the average guy tends to get fucked over, so in a way it's saying we can't handle high rolling. Let's just stick with the reasoning being to make ourselves feel better about or current status.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


For starters, Ginsberg has free form, lengthy lines, no rhyme, little structure, similar to Whitman. Hearing Ginsberg read Howl, it seemed he was taking on a preachy style. The same in which Whitman was interested in: not so much the content but the breath and rhythm of the poem.

With themes and imagery, in Howl, there is the juxtaposition of the great minded youth paired with the corrupt institution tearing them down. Whitman wasn't as explicit as Ginsberg, maybe that's just the difference in language over time, but he clearly was against the institution as well. Speaking against the scholar, the typical poet etc. In A Supermarket in California, Ginsberg definitely takes on the voice of the lost American youth, "Where are we going, Walt Whitman?" that Whitman addresses as well "I contradict myself." This piece specifically remins me of section 20 of Whitman's Calamus poems. The one where he is speaking of the tree he saw in Louisiana that stands alone. Whitman looks to it for answers, or at the very least admires it for what it stands for. I feel that in Supermarket, Ginsberg is taking on the role of Whitman the speaker in section 20, and Whitman becomes the tree, the one with the answers.

'the man' vs. 'the poet' : I think who 'the man' is defines who 'the poet' is. I see a correlation between Whitman and Ginsberg in the sense of them representing, or attempting to, an identity, an American identity. But they do so through the medium of a more specific identity, Whitman the average American worker and Ginsberg, American, disenfranchised youth. When I listened to the reading of Howl, after this line "who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a trail of ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic City Hall," people laughed. I didn't get it.  This seemed to be because maybe it was very colloquial and particular to New Yorkians, have to experience it to understand. This is similar to Whitman. A New York man. They're trying to speak to a whole but can't help but speak to particular part as well. In thinking of Song of Myself, many images specific to the times and the place of Whitman, but it is still able to stand the test of time and relate. The same happens with Ginsberg. I think maybe a little more obscure and particular, but same idea. There will always be these types of people and it will call to a certain youth of every generation. SO in relation to the man... it is where they come from, their specific experience, that pathes the way for the poet. The poet borrows from the man to inspire and create the work of art. By getting specific, can be universal.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Whitman's Presence in 9/11

by Ann Lauterbach

This poem uses a tactic of remembrance of better days. It looks to the future to remind us that the mourning will not last forever and that we will move on to beautiful days. "The days are beautiful./The towers are yesterday." This reminds me of the symbolic song in Whitman's poem being the ever present reminder of death, but by the end, as a whole, we are able to move on. 

As that powerful psalm in the night I heard from recesses,
Passing, I leave thee lilac with heart-shaped leaves,
I leave thee there in the door-yard, blooming, returning with

I cease from my song for thee,
Lauterbach's poem differ from Whitman's in that it doesn't take time to settle in the death. In the first line, it is already addressing a time where death is not present. Whitman, even though he moves on, still addresses that death will always be there. He's just leaving it for now. This makes me see that Whitman uses a more realist approach in his poetry than any other.

if bin laden read dr. seussby markk

This poem uses a tactic of common hate. He takes the confusion held by America as a whole and uses it to address a bin laden, making a common symbol of hatred that can bring everyone together. This also reminds me of Whitman's symbolic song. Both poets are using an object or symbol to identify the common emotions threaded through the people experiencing the tragedy. Also, even though markk uses hate and confusion for his tactic and Whitman uses love and memory, markk takes a "Whitman-esc" approach to ending his poem, wishing well for bin laden. 

tonight you will dream of lambs& flutes & calm nectars fromfruited vines, because i will it so& that white light you see is myshadow. open yer heart man, havesome green eggs, i know you don'teat ham, & i'd like you to meetmy friend sam, yes, sam i am

Photograph from September 11


This poem takes an entirely different approach to national grieving by exploring the moments right before death through the eyes of a few individuals. In fact, the poem never even reaches death 

They’re still within the air’s reach,within the compass of places
that have just now opened.

Although, I believe this has a similar end result to what Whitman does in his poem for it is making the reader experience what brought on this death, triggering a grieving process. For me, Whitman's entire poem is about the grieving process. This makes me see that Whitman, in his poem, is trying to ease the reader into death, which makes me feel that his poem can work for 'similar historical ruptures and disasters."  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Project Expanded

So I am attempting to understand Whitman's views on slavery and how that relates to his peers as well as the common American of the time. I am slowly realizing that there really wasn't a common thread belief throughout the people, hence the separation of the North and the South. I am discovering though that there was a common desire to believe in something. When reading an article about Whitman's relation to pro-slavery and how he was marketed to the south as "the rage" as a strategy to get his work out there, Van Evrie, the editor of the Day Book, a pro-slavery newspaper, was compared to Whitman in their reader and who they appealed to
"socially insecure whites in search of a sense of identity that could help make the existing social and economic systems more tolerable.”

 I think what I want to do now is find that voice within Whitman and his peers and capture it in the Cento poem I am creating. In order to do so, I will research further about the Free Soil movement, something Whitman was said to be apart of, and artists on both ends of the slavery spectrum such as William Douglas O'Connor, John Townsend Trowbridge, Franklin Benjamin Sandborn, Van Evrie etc. I will also search through newspaper articles that these people were featured in such as Commonwealth, an anti-slavery paper, and Day Book, a pro-slavery paper. I am hoping to find a common thread as mentioned earlier having to do with a search for an identity.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Peter Doyle

Peter Doyle was an Irish Immigrant that came over to the Americas in the early 1800s. He landed in the South, D.C. and then Virginia and voluntarily fought against the Union in the Civil War. He met Walt Whitman later as a streetcar driver where they "felt to each other at once." It is said they became lovers for the last years of Whitman's life, inspiring Whitman's Calamus poems if not directly but in reassurance of the feelings portrayed in them. Doyle was also a witness to Abraham Lincoln's death in which Whitman is said to draw from his experience in his infamous poem "O Captain, My Captain."

There seems to be a shift in Whitman that I noticed in the Calamus poems. He is less preachy and confident, and more a love's servant, commenting on the beauty of nature and death and love and turning the reader away from viewing him as a teacher of sorts. Although in the end he eludes to those doubts as a test, he doesn't directly take on the role he held within Leaves of Grass as a guide for the reader. I think this has to do with his association with Doyle and new found appreciation for Love. Doyle changed Whitman as a man, more concerned with his lovers and friends, commenting on how often he thinks of them. I believe he also states somewhere that he doesn't revel in his previous beliefs on America and his appreciation for it as often as he used to. When thinking about it, maybe Doyle was to Whitman as Yoko was to Jon Lennon, still an artist but that's when he started spouting 'All You Need Is Love' and focusing on world peace and what not. In the biography in the Walt Whitman archive, it is even said that Doyle might be the reasoning for 'O Captain, My Captain's' rhyme, which was not at all Whitman's preferred verse at all.

Whitman may also have broken from his own poetical tradition and adopted rhyme to make the poem more appealing to the limerick-spouting Doyle. Interestingly, Whitman's first draft of "O Captain!" is not rhymed, but rather written in free verse.

 Oh, what things people do for love!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Project: To Enslave or Not to Enslave?

In light of our conversation about Whitman being anti-abolitionist while still trying to explore the experience of the runaway slave, I want to rethink my blog, The Stupor Passes, based on a Specimen Days entry addressing the First Battle of Bull Run during the Civil War. I made the statement

maybe [Whitman's] state was a common one for an American of the times.. One that was confused and torn between sides, and the issues with slavery: in theory supporting the abolition of it, but patriotically supporting its continuance because of America's history and commonality of slavery.
This makes me wonder the answer to this eluded question: did the common American of the times feel torn between abolition and pro-slavery? Was it a state of confusion? To try and answer this question, I will attempt to research the works, speeches, and literature of prominent literary figures of the times. I will then create a Cento, or a poem/compilation of lines from these figures and advocates that will try to provide the multiple or common views held on this issue. A bonus with this project would be finding out the African American or non-white perspective on White abolitionists. How did they interact? Did they try to work together? Or was there a disconnect similar to the one expressed in our class the other day by the student who felt Whitman had no right to take on the voice of the runaway slave? I will also try very hard to keep my opinions from entering my poem because I really want to understand the perspective of Whitman's time.