Walt Whitman: Great are the Myths pt.6


Great is youth, and equally great is old age….great are

the day and night;

Great is wealth and great is poverty….great is

expression and great is silence.

Youth large lusty and loving….youth full of grace and

force and fascination,

Do you know that old age may come after you with equal

grace and force and fascination?


Old age is coming with grace and fascination?

I’m not so sure.

Force?

Yes.

You’re right Walt. Old age is the unstoppable force.

From: Leaves of Grass 150th Anniversary Edition (Penguin Classics), pg.157

Walt Whitman: Great are the Myths pt.5

Great are yourself and myself,

We are just as good and bad as the oldest and youngest

or any,

What the best and worst did we could do,

What they felt..do we not feel it in ourselves?

What they wished..do we not wish the same?

Was Walt Whitman a stoic?

Parts of this poem make it seem so. I need to research his biography to learn more.

Follow up soon…

From: Leaves of Grass 150th Anniversary Edition (Penguin Classics), pg.156,157

Woeful Targets

I had to add this to my online common place book:

“Remember this, son, if you forget everything else. A poet is a musician who can’t sing. Words have to find a man’s mind before they can touch his heart, and some men’s minds are woeful small targets. Music touches their hearts directly no matter how small or stubborn the mind of the man who listens.”

The Name of the Wind. Patrick Rothfuss. pg 106

When a sentence grabs you, share it.


Afternoon light ripened the valley

From: Another Life, by Derek Walcott. As read from Teju Cole’s essay Derek Walcott, from his collection of essays – Known and Strange Things.

I read this Derek Walcott line repeatedly. I admit I’d never heard of Walcott before reading Teju Cole’s essay.

With a few words Walcott took me to a mountain range.

I could see the orange and yellows wash across the shrubs. I watched the white and pink light flood over the granite.

I wanted to keep going back there.

Walt Whitman’s Great Are the Myths pt.2

Great is liberty! Great is equality! I am their follower,
Helmsmen of nations, choose your craft....where you
sail I sail,
Yours is the muscle of life or death....your is the perfect
science....in you I have absolute faith.

From: Leaves of Grass 150th Anniversary Edition (Penguin Classics), pg.156

I didn’t imagine Walt Whitman being an optimistic poet. The first few lines of Great Are the Myths is all Walt admiring people and ideas with intensity.

How to Read a Poem

Thoughts from an amateur.

I’ve written before on how to to write a poem. Followed by how to truly write a poem – study Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook and then practice.

But reading a poem is a whole different pack of monkeys.

I developed this weird method to help me absorb the poems I read. It slows me down, so I don’t rocket through the lines. The aim is to bury the verses in my subconscious.

See if it works for you.


First I read the poem to myself. From the first verse to the last, all the way through.

Then I’ll read the poem from the end to the beginning. I read line by line, from the final verse, back up to the opener:

From Over the Fence, Emily Dickinson

Reading it backwards is like reverse engineering. It helps me see the poem’s structure. How each verse builds up to the final one.

After that, I’ll read the poem beginning to end again, but this time out loud.

Reading out loud helps you find the poem’s rhythm. I’m sure there’s things like meter and tone involved as well, but I won’t pretend to know how.

Then I’ll read the poem in reverse order again. But this time in full blocks. Starting from the bottom of the poem to the top:

From Again his voice is at the door, Emily Dickinson

While reading I’ll keep a pencil close. If the poem rhymes I search for the rhyming pattern by underlining all the rhyming words.

From Again his voice is at the door, Emily Dickinson

Once finished, I’ll log the date, author, and name of the poem in my steno book. Keeping a record gives me a sense of progress.

It’s a practice I stole the from director Steven Soderbergh who publishes a yearly log of what he’s watched, read, and listened to, on his site.

This how I read a poem. You may read a poem once and bin it. And that works too.