Walt was an active metaphysical soldier in the Civil War. But why was he so obsessed with America and the unity of the nation? If only he could see what it has now become. Has the freedom he seemed to emotionally fight for, become nothing more than our meager attempt to separate ourselves from one another? Seems quite paradoxical to say the least, that one’s individual liberation should cause a rift between himself and all of mankind. But I suppose one cannot view the individual pursuit of intellectual power as a means of societal degradation. Society is as society does, and Walt is the spawn of positive societal unification. Perhaps in this sense, Lincoln quite literally becomes Whitman’s father or at least a “father-like” figure not only to Whitman, but to all of embryonic America as well. Or maybe that’s just me making a ridiculous reach for meaning where there is none. If this project has taught me one thing, it is that you cannot force poetry or creativity, and you cannot force insight or an innate acceptance of the inadequate fallen state of man. By picking out the simplistic and often divergent themes found within the nooks and crannies of his journal entries, I feel as though I have captured some unique yet equally monumental characteristics that are crucial when attempting to define the essence of Walt.
This blackout poem was created from the Specimen Day’s entry titled “The Stupor Passes -- Something Else Begins.”
endured a crucifixion
the days of war,
the day of Lincoln’s death.
Little was said
silently to each other.
Talking about the importance of Lincoln feels like beating the crap out of a dead horse, but Lincoln was incredibly influential in Whitman’s life. What I tried to highlight in this section reminds me slightly of what Walt talks about in “When Lilac’s Last...” because I’m highlighting both the beautiful and ugly aspects of war and death. The Lilac’s poem is clearly a poem of mourning and the paradoxical intricacies of loss, and in this Specimen Days entry I find that Walt is saying Lincoln’s “crucifixion” can be seen as a catalyst for ending the days of war. Lincoln attempted to unite the nation in his living years, but Whitman is pointing out that it’s quite possible for the significant impact of his death to ignite the beginning of the country’s subliminal
desire to merge.
This blackout poem was created from the Specimen Day’s entry titled, “A Cavalry Camp.”
my window dismounted; freed
with drooping heads and wet sides;
on the hill
I sit long in my window and look on--
connected without much
This one could not have turned out any better. As soon as I finished this one I couldn’t help but think of the 29th bather and the way he or she (as Whitman or the reader or whoever) is looking out the window, longing to be free and in a sense sexually emancipated. Although the entry is originally about his observations of the men at work in the camp, I found a lot of imagery regarding water and wetness which has possible sexual connotations. Fitting, seeing as Walt is often driven by the sensual aspect of both poetry and ultimately life itself. Walt Whitman in my humble opinion encompasses the 29th bather, always striving to breech the walls of societal and mental captivation.
This blackout poem was created from the Specimen Day’s entry titled, “Some Sad Cases Yet.”
a strong man
brought low as I have ever seen
in a partial sleep, sleep
hot parade of
yesterday. the lives of men
are quite full
hope left them
in a dying
This entry is all about injured and dying soldiers, but I wanted to draw a perhaps more universal theme from it. In my blackout poem I chose to highlight the finality of death in correlation with the loss of hope. This entry (similar to the first one) reminds me somewhat of “When Lilacs Last...” because there is a certain cosmic quality to it representative of the “kosmic” Walt. Death may not simply refer to the physical act of passing, but rather may refer to an internal death or loss of blissful reverie. War is haunting for those who see it and those who are physically in it, but for Whitman the concept of war itself is indicative of the seemingly despairing state of man when he finds himself approaching the end.
Now, Some Feedback:
Don’t want to sound like a suck up or anything, but I can’t think of anything I found to be problematic in this class. The only thing that sucked was that it was only one day a week. I’m probably the only one who would complain about something like that, and this is probably because I’m a nerd. But this class is the only one that I genuinely enjoyed going to. I’ve read Leaves of Grass before, but I’d be lying if I said I initially understood any of it. Because of your class I will never look at much of life in the same way I did before, and it may be because I’m still young and incredibly impressionable, but I also think it’s because you taught us how to embrace and accept not only a poem but a poet into our lives as well. I remember the very first day of class you said reading Whitman was like an acid trip only ten times better, and I never thought I’d say this but I couldn’t agree more. So I guess I’d like to thank you for showing me the monumental world of Walt, and thank you for teaching me how to mentally embrace the intimate quality of true poetry. You can bet on seeing me in one of your classes when I return from the land of hockey and bacon, that I guess is actually ham.