Thursday, May 17, 2012

final project

Earlier, I believe I expressed a desire to expand my "Walt in pop culture" post. I thought it would be interesting to create something exemplifying this rather than research pre-existing instances. Does Whitman become misunderstood, misrepresented, used etc through this? Does it even matter?  I (with technical help, of course) recorded the last two stanzas of the death carol in Lilacs and made it into a dubstep-ish,rave-ish, electric (?) weird thing.
The night, in silence, under many a star;
The ocean shore, and the husky whispering wave, whose voice I know;
And the soul turning to thee, O vast and well-veil’d Death,
And the body gratefully nestling close to thee.
Over the tree-tops I float thee a song!
Over the rising and sinking waves—over the myriad fields, and the prairies wide;
Over the dense-pack’d cities all, and the teeming wharves and ways,
I float this carol with joy, with joy to thee, O Death
Anyway, here it is:


Collective loss, trauma and the way we deal with it never has a clear answer. Whitman and the 9/11 poets all deal with collective loss in an individual way. How do we come back from the horror? The way we deal with it is the most difficult, and can be done in many ways, but most notably expression in art. The process of creating something out of destruction fulfills the creator in some way; through the process of grieving death, he/she has made something new.
Most of the 9/11 poems I read were annoyingly abrasive, but that may have been the only way they could understand the images of people jumping out windows etc. The ones I read were less poetic than Whitman. The loss of Lincoln was symbolic for many things, but he was one person, whereas 9/11 resulted in the death of a mass amount of people. Lincoln was more concentrated and easier to find an enemy, while 9/11 resulted in ambiguity and so much misdirected hatred.
The fall of the twin towers can be seen as an attack on capitalism. maybe I didn't look through enough poems, but I would have liked to have read a less visceral one and more symbolic one (i guess?) It just gets tiring when most poems highlight America and how horrible 9/11 was, but hey, that's how people dealt with I guess.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Whitman’s use of “you” is one of death and loss, by writing about it he allows it to live again. Whitman is lamenting the death of Lincoln, dancing around the ambiguity with metaphors (the star) and confusing addresses. Is the reader supposed to take on the role, common to Whitman, of the “you,” the sacred lost one? Who do we identify with, Whitman or “you?” It seems to me that although it shows up in different contexts, he is still refrencing the same loss. Similar to the unknown depths of our unconscious thoughts in dreams- a certain idea may reappear but morph into something relevant yet different with each appearance. An indea can also embody more than just the literal (recall Lincoln being a form of synecdoche for larger ideas) Whitman ends with a resolution that death is only painful for the leftovers; the dead do not have to suffer.
                 Rukeyser takes the “you” to mean nothing specific because it identifies a myriad of specifics – the “workers,” “surveyors and planners.” The “you” embodies us all, it becomes the “we.” The guilty and the innocent are combined in the end; just because some wore masks did not leave them free of poison. Similar to the way Whitman lists titles in “Song of Myself,” Rukeyser does so to call out to those who need to hear. She builds on the history of colonialism “Down coasts of taken countries” with the exploitation of the workers.

Friday, March 30, 2012

revisiting an old post

I would like take a deeper look at Walt in pop culture- specifically what I had written about for the corresponding blog post. I am interested in the folk aesthetic and how Whitman has been digested by society and reused/utilized (in relation to Guthrie). My focus will probably be music and how each generation shifts their sound and understanding of Whitman. How does music help bring a new perspective to Whitman? How effective is it as a medium?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

peter doyle

Whitman and Doyle seem to embody Whitman's writings, specifically in terms of teaching. The poet and the reader, both necessary components, can teach each other. Although Doyle was not considered an intellectual, Whitman nurtured his mind however. Doyle was just a working class man on the trains (a symbol for modernity/change among others) while whitman was the poet of the loafer, Doyle was the working class, although i like to imagine walt as a sugar daddy- in knowledge,finances and literally age relation. They would take evening strolls together- leisure, and were close with each other's families.
The parallel between the reader and Doyle is obvious when we think about how Whitman assumes us, the reader, as his lover, that he loves all of us. How then, is his love for Doyle separate? Whitman teaches Doyle, takes him on a learning journey, just like the reader. Whitman melts for his readers while he has a stroke and later dies for Doyle. These frames have a broad mirrored sense.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

specimen days

"the real war will never get told in books"
    Whitman discusses how he does not believe that the truth of the Civil War will ever be told. The more distance placed between the war and society, the softer the memories are. It’s like having a baby; most women say it hurts like crazy, but oh whoops, pregnant again- worth the pain or worth forgetting the pain? I don’ think Whitman is necessarily talking about this though, I think he is getting at a larger idea being the truth won’t be told because it cant be told. With every soldier buried, pieces of the real war get buried too. How do you tell the story of horror? How does a country cope? The master narrative will condense the bloodshed into a chapter for students to read, when
     Whitman even discusses that all he can write about it will still not do enough. I would like to note that Whitman worked in the hospital wing, so even he can’t tell the true story of the war, only retell it. He was not experiencing it first hand like all the soldiers buried he was just a witness. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Walt in pop cultcha

    So there are only two I know off my head:
Many people may post this one, but the record Mermaid Avenue by Billy Bragg and Wilco has a song on it called Walt Whitman’s Neice. First of all, this is relevant to my groups discussion on Guthrie so I won’t go into too much detail. After Guthrie died, he had a tone of songs he never recorded and his daughter was saving them for a band to write music for Guthrie’s lyrics that would not be a mirror the style of her father, rather a contemporary take. Bob Dylan had wanted access to the songs but he was of the same folk music scene as Guthrie and would not be what was envisioned for the songs. Think of the folk aesthetic and the process of taking material that has lost an author and through each handling, the song and content change. Walt Whitman’s Niece starts off with a kind of boisterous feel, which may not have been what Guthrie imagined.  The view of Whitman was more sexualized than spiritual during the making of this record and is reflected in the song. When Guthrie was writing, Whitman was understood to represent a spiritual truth which changed throughout the years.There is a documentary of the making of this record entitled "Man in the Sand" but I don't think this song is on it.
But this one is!
        This song is also mentioned in the book Paper Towns by John Green (and inspired me to read the book back in high school). It was only a clue for the neighbor of this enigmatic girl when he was trying to find her (in the end you find out that she doesn’t want to be found.) It’s interesting to think about the layers of reference in this song.

 First off, I am a huge fan of Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey Buckingham and the like. He had an album in ‘92 called “Out of the Cradle” which was his third solo album (Law and Order/Go Insane ) but his first since his departure from Fleetwood Mac. This album asserts his independence as an artist and his ability to make music that  (although I do think it is a testament to how Fleetwood Mac is a super band- Buckingham, Nicks and McVie can all stand on their own extremely well, but together they kick ass) was a departure from Fleetwood Mac. Fleetwood Mac needed each other to make their songs a “Fleetwood Mac song” (something beyond human in my opinion…)- In one of the documentaries I have, Nicks was speaking about how she would come in with an idea and Lindsey would add to it and vice versa. They also were connected personally in so many ways. My dad and I would always joke about how all Buckingham and Nick’s songs were about each other in Rumors  (and other records as well—same goes for Christine McVie and John McVie.) These things fueled the band and that was a break Buckingham wanted to make.
First seen in the 1860 version of Leaves of Grass, “Out of the Cradle endlessly rocking” the poem highlights themes of departure from a unit and into the realm of independence and self sufficiency. Buckingham was making a statement that he was not dependent on Fleetwood Mac; like the mockingbird in the poem, he left the nest of love and safety.
Side note: I think Whitman would have totally dug the romantic entanglements Fleetwood Mac entertained; the fleshy sexy time as inspiration for hit singles…pure walt.

Here is an instance of Whitman becoming "twitterfied" wwwd? tweet!

O captain my captain     
Most people are probably familiar with the reference to Whitman in the film "Dead Poets Society." Robin Williams quotes Walt Whitman to bring to light Whitman's ideas of free and democratic thinking. Whitman is a teacher, in a different sort than Williams, but both are teachers that alter the student's core. Williams proved to be a life changing teacher, just as Whitman is. Fighting conformity (just as Whitman originally did in comparison with his contemporaries) Williams teaches his students to be leaders, not followers.Williams has taught them all he can, he needed to leave, because what he did was plant a seed that will change how they approach everything. Whitman must also leave his readers because part of the process is us (as students) flying out of the cradle.