Old Walt Whitman
Went finding and seeking,
Finding less than sought
Seeking more than found,
Every detail minding
Of the seeking or the finding.
In seeking as in finding,
Each detail minding,
Old Walt went seeking
Langston Hughes, 1954
from A Supermarket in California
Where are we going Walt Whitman? The doors close in an
hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the
supermarket and feel absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees
add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be
Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past
automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
Ah, dear father graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what
America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and
you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat
disappear on the black waters of Lethe?
Allen Ginsberg, 1956
Emerson's Letter to Whitman
21 July Concord Masstts. 1855
I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of "Leaves of Grass." I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed. I am very happy in reading it, as great power makes us happy. It meets the demand I am always making of what seemed the sterile & stingy nature, as if too much handiwork or too much lymph in the temperament were making our western wits fat and mean. I give you joy of your free brave thought. I have great joy in it. I find incomparable things said incomparably well, as they must be. I find the courage of treatment, which so delights us, & which large perception only can inspire. I greet you at the beginning of a great career, which yet must have had a long foreground somewhere for such a start. I rubbed my eyes a little to see if this sunbeam were no illusion; but the solid sense of the book is a sober certainty. It has the best merits, namely of fortifying & encouraging. I did not know until I, last night, saw the book advertised in a newspaper, that I could trust the name as real and available for a post-office. I wish to see my benefactor, & have felt much like striking my tasks, & visiting New York to pay you my respects. R. W. Emerson
Mr. Walter Whitman.
Contributions of Whitman
Richard Chase (in Walt Whitman Reconsidered, 1955) discusses the following contributions of the author and his book:
1. First poetic writing which combines lyric verse and prose fiction - modern poetry thrives on this combination. 2. Whitman made the city and urban living conditions suitable settings for poetry (pogledati tekst dat u prilogu) 3. In his remarkable use of sex and sexual imagery, Whitman broke new ground in American writing. 4. The central metaphor, the unity of self with all other selves, is unique in American literature.
Leaves Of Grass (1855)
From its first publication in 1855, Whitman continued to add and expand the Leaves of Grass. He published nine books with this same title - the last one appeared in 1892, the year of his death. His poems capture the sweeping expanse of America. Among the numerous themes, Whitman discussed the unity of I and you; good and evil; sex; death, the divine average, and democracy.
Whitman on Leaves Of Grass:
1. "Remember, the book arose out of my life in Brooklyn and NY from 1838 to 1853, absorbing a million people for 15 years, with an intimacy, an eagerness, an abandon, probably never equalled."
2. "I saw, from the time my enterprise and questionings positively shaped themselves (how best can I express my own distinctive era and surroundings, America, Democracy?), that the trunk and center whence the answer was to radiate, and which all should return from straying, however far a distance, must be identical body and soul, a personality, after many considerations and pondering, I deliberately settled should be myself - indeed could not be...