EppsNet Archive: Walt Whitman

Mary Oliver, 1935 – 2019

Mary Oliver was an American poet who won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. She died today of lymphoma at the age of 83. The Poetry Foundation has a biography and a selection of poems, although I prefer the selection at the Peaceful Rivers site. Her work had a Whitmanesque love of life. I’ve included one of my favorites here: The Journey One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice — though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. “Mend my life!” each voice cried. But you didn’t stop. You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible. It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full… Read more →

More People I’m Sick Unto Death Of: Breastfeeding Celebrities

“In paths untrodden,” as Walt Whitman marvelously put it. “Escaped from the life that exhibits itself . . .” Oh, that’s a plague, the life that exhibits itself, a real plague! — Saul Bellow, Herzog Who the heck is Olivia Wilde and why is there a photo all over the Internet of her breastfeeding an infant in a restaurant booth? I mean, not a surreptitious candid photo of her discreetly breastfeeding. A posed photo! In a designer dress! (I’m not posting or linking to the photo. If you haven’t already seen it, I’m sure you can find it.) Well it’s a natural function, breastfeeding — right? Yeah, but there are a number of natural functions that need not be performed in public and photographed. The life that exhibits itself . . . what a plague indeed. Read more →

The Life That Exhibits Itself

“In paths untrodden,” as Walt Whitman marvelously put it. “Escaped from the life that exhibits itself . . .” Oh, that’s a plague, the life that exhibits itself, a real plague! There comes a time when every ridiculous son of Adam wishes to arise before the rest, with all his quirks and twitches and tics, all the glory of his self-adored ugliness, his grinning teeth, his sharp nose, his madly twisted reason, saying to the rest — in an overflow of narcissism which he interprets as benevolence — “I am here to witness. I am come to be your exemplar.” Poor dizzy spook! — Saul Bellow, Herzog Read more →

I Have Heard What the Talkers Were Talking

I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the      beginning and the end, But I do not talk of the beginning or the end. There was never any more inception than there is now, Nor any more youth or age than there is now, And will never be any more perfection than there is now, Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now. — Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself” Read more →

Poetry Slam: Whitman vs Dickinson

Emily Dickinson was good but Walt Whitman would have kicked her ass in a poetry slam. Read more →

The Learn’d Astronomer

When I heard the learn’d astronomer; When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me; When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them; When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room, How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick; Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself, In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars. — Walt Whitman My son has an assignment to read this poem and answer some questions about what Whitman was trying to say. The academic answer is that he was exploring the tension between romanticism and science in the late 19th century, and acknowledging sadly, based on “much applause in the lecture-room,” that the romantic worldview was dying out. But just between you and me, he was… Read more →

Randy Pausch, 1960-2008

Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want things. — Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture If I could only give three words of advice, they would be, ‘Tell the truth.’ If I got three more words, I’d add, ‘All the time.’ — Ibid. All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses, And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier. — Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”   Randy Pausch was lucky in that, thanks to the worldwide fame he achieved from his lecture and book, he died knowing that things he did and said would not be forgotten after he was gone. Without the pancreatic cancer, he couldn’t have achieved that. Let’s face it, you can’t peddle the kind of pabulum cited above as “wisdom” in the absence of a terminal illness.   We own this book because my mom sent… Read more →

This Date in History

On this date in 1884, the cornerstone was laid for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. (We got the statue for free — the pedestal we had to pay for.) One of the most historic fundraisers was the Pedestal Art Loan Exhibition, to which Walt Whitman, Mark Twain and others donated manuscripts for auction. Emma Lazarus donated a poem called “The New Colossus,” which sold for $1,500, but was mostly forgotten until 1945, when it was inscribed over the main entrance at the base of the statue. Read more →

Happy Valentine’s Day

What do you seek, so pensive and silent? What do you need, Camerado? Dear son! do you think it is love? — Walt Whitman, “Starting from Paumanok” Read more →

Yowzah!

O to be yielded to you whoever you are, and you to be yielded to me in defiance of the world! O to return to paradise! O bashful and feminine! O to draw you to me, to plant on you for the first time the lips of a determin’d man! — Walt Whitman, “One Hour to Madness and Joy” Read more →

Classic Review

Fortunately, however, the chief damage done will be to the author himself, who thus dishonors his own physical nature; for imperfect though the race is, it still remains so much purer than the stained and distorted reflection of its animalism in Leaves of Grass, that the book cannot attain to any very wide influence. — Atlantic Monthly, Jan. 1882 Read more →