The Wisdom of Walt Whitman–to Question Everything

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I have taught Walt Whitman in several classes both at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA and at the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA, in traditional and adult classes.

This excerpt is from his introduction to the 1855 First Edition of Leaves of Grass.

leavesofgrass

(http://www.whitmanarchive.org)

Whitman was one of the greatest American poets and has been called the Bard of Democracy. He challenged the existing views of normalcy in the United States across a wide range of topics. We live in a time, perhaps even more than in the 1800s, when great pressure exists to conform to what society defines normalcy to be. I believe it is crucial for individuals to find out who they are, for what they have passions, and what they believe. With this thought in mind, I want to share this small excerpt:

“re-examine all you have been told at church or school or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem”

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(https://pixabay.com)

Whitman shattered the conventions of his time, and his admonition to us to question everything is as important today as it was in the mid-1800s.

meadow-63987_640

(https://pixabay.com)

Please, keep Whitman’s idea in mind, and question everything.

Beautiful Writing: Part 3, Walt Whitman

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walt-whitman-391107_960_720

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Walt Whitman is one of the most important American, if not world, poets. His work changed poetry, and he has been called the Poet of Democracy. His collection Leaves of Grass, is one of the books of poetry that I recommend everyone read sometime in his or her life.

I want to offer two examples of his work: this first is a brief excerpt from his preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass as a representation of beautiful writing. This is from the preface that Whitman wrote to his work, and it is in prose, but it reads like poetry.

“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and

the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one 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, read these leaves in

the open air every season of every year of your life, re-

examine all you have been told at school or church or

in any book, 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.”

 

My second Whitman offering is perhaps his most famous poem and is about the death of Abraham Lincoln: “O Captain! My Captain!”

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;

                         But O heart! heart! heart!

                            O the bleeding drops of red,

                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,

                                  Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,

For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

                         Here Captain! dear father!

                            This arm beneath your head!

                               It is some dream that on the deck,

                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,

The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,

From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;

                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!

                            But I with mournful tread,

                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,

                                  Fallen cold and dead.

 

Dining With Authors: Part One

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I have written before about dining with characters, and I was thinking recently of what it would be like to do the same with authors. For this series, I will restrict the invitations to a maximum of three writers.  Any more than that, and the  conversation could be, well, difficult.

For this first gathering, I would invite the authors to join me in an old-fashioned pub, because they are from the 19th Century, and I would want them to be comfortable. They would be able to have beer, wine, tea, or coffee and order food with which they are familiar.

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My invitees are Samuel Clemens, otherwise known as Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, and Charles Dickens. All of the writers are very well known in their time and have been firmly established in the canon of literature.

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These authors  created some of the most important works that have been written; among them: Leaves Of Grass, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and A Tale of Two Cities. These works are only a few of what would be a massive collection of writings from these authors, but they are a good representation of their creations.

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https://commons.wikimedia.org

I would hope that I could guide these creative and brilliant minds into a productive and exciting interchange of ideas and of a wide and innovative discussion of writing. I would like to ask them what they believed their major contributions to literature were and what pieces  they viewed as their best work. I would also ask what they would recommend for reading. This would be an extraordinary evening of conversation!

With which authors would you like to have dinner and a conversation?

Walt Whitman Teaches Us to Question Everything

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Walt_Whitman_-_NARA_-_525875

(commons.wikimedia.org)

I have taught Walt Whitman in several classes, and this excerpt is from his introduction to the 1855 First Edition of Leaves of Grass.

leavesofgrass

(http://www.whitmanarchive.org)

Whitman was one of the greatest American poets and has been called the Bard of Democracy. He challenged the existing views of normalcy in the United States across a wide range of topics. We live in a time, perhaps even more than in the 1800s, when great pressure exists to conform to what society defines normalcy to be. I believe it is crucial for individuals to find out who they are, for what they have passions, and what they believe. With this thought in mind, I want to share this small excerpt:

“re-examine all you have been told at church or school or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem”

walt-whitman-391107__180

(https://pixabay.com)

Whitman shattered the conventions of his time, and his admonition to us to question everything is as important today as it was in the mid-1800s.

meadow-63987_640

(https://pixabay.com)

Please, keep Whitman’s idea in mind, and question everything.