Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Literary Blog Hop, Wherein I Sing the Song of Myself

Literary Blog HopIt's Thursday again, and our friends over at The Blue Bookcase are once again hosting the Literary Blog Hop--a capital idea if ever there was one.  This week, I must admit, they've unsettled me.  This week's discussion topic (from the very well-read and articulate Parrish Lantern) is "Who is your favorite poet and why?"  And like a boot to the head, I suddenly came to the realization that The Literate Man has entirely ignored the topic of poetry for nearly nine months now.  That said, there is plenty of poetry (or at least dirty limerick) in Ulysses, and it is based on Homer's Odyssey, and Joyce's prose is nothing if not poetic, so I give myself a half point for our two reviews of that book (here and here).  But that does little to ameliorate this deplorable situation, which really deserves some serious attention.  

So, there's no time like the present.

Leaves of Grass: The Original 1855 EditionMy favorite poet, hands down, is Walt Whitman.  The why of my choice has everything to do with Whitman's poem, Song of Myself, included in Leaves of Grass.  I grew up in a very small, one stop light town in Western New York, where I had a vague notion that the world somewhere out there was large and busy and exciting, with limiteless possibilities for those that were willing to dive into it, but it wasn't until I read Song of Myself that I knew it for a certainty.  Song is nothing short of a celebration of the great variety of human existence and endeavor, admittedly focused on a post-frontier America, but also universally applicable.  In Song and elsewhere, Whitman captures the harsh reality of human existence--the blood and sweat and decay--and places it in the larger context of the wonder of physical existence and the endless cycles of birth and death that bring us all together, both physically and emotionally.  If I'm honest with myself, I think that Whitman still provides at least one of the pillars of my own individual world view. 

And so, we owe a debt of gratitude to Parrish Lantern and The Blue Bookcase for bringing this glaring omission to our attention.  It shall be rectified.  In the meantime, what do you think of Whitman?  Is there a particular poet that reaches your heart or tickles your fancy more directly?  And to whom do you owe your own particular world view?    



  1. When I lost my much thumbed copy of Leaves of Grass, I despaired as I couldn't get another copy in any of the bookstores near my place. My younger brother acquired a copy from God knows where and gifted it to me. Just imagine my pleasure..!!

    Being a poet, I can’t imagine my life without poetry. I live and breath it. I have loved to read a lot of poets and poetry over the years and still find something new every day. I have gone through phases liking, poets, and moving over to the the next. So many yet to read.

    Here is my Literary Blog Hop post!

  2. I love Whitman! I haven't read anything by him in a while, but this post makes me want to find my anthology.

    You aren't still living in WNY are you? I live in the Buffalo southtowns and we're getting pelted with snow right now. I'm off to find some nice snow-related poems to keep me company :)

  3. @guatami - I'm glad another copy of Leaves of Grass found its way to you. As much as I love Whitman, I'm not as well-read in poetry as I'd like to be. Any recommendations? Who's your current favorite?

    @Kelly - I grew up in Holland and I still have family in Orchard Park. Where are you? I've been reading about the snow yesterday and today - it makes me very nostalgic. I live in Miami, which sounds great, but I really feel out of sorts at Christmas. It's just not the same unless you can feel your cheeks going numb and hear the snow crunch under your boots. Enjoy!

  4. Here's a barbaric YAWP for your choice!

  5. out of the cradle endlessly rocking,
    Out of the mocking-birds throat,the musical shuttle,
    out of the Ninth-month midnight,
    over the sterile sands and the fields beyond, where the child, leaving his bed, wander'd alone, bareheaded, barefooted,

    Love Whitman just the sheer majesty of his vision, coupled with the minutest tiny detail.
    And one for you as a Joyce fan here's one from
    The Poems in Verse & Prose
    The eyes that mock me sign the way
    whereto I pass at eve of day

    Grey way whose violet signals are
    the trysting and the twining star

    Ah star of evil! star of pain!
    Highhearted youth comes not again

    Nor old heart's wisdom yet to know
    the signs that mock me as i go.

    "from the very well-read and articulate Parrish Lantern" Blimey!! the missus almost didn't recognise me here. thanks for the compliment from someone as literate as yourself.

  6. I haven't read Leaves of Grass in awhile and I should rectify that. Thanks for reminding me! Great choice.

  7. I know they're so oft repeated that they're almost cliche, but I love the lines from Song of Myself:
    "Do I contradict myself?
    Very well then I contradict myself,
    (I am large, I contain multitudes."
    I still remember these lines from my high school reading of Whitman, even if much of the rest of the poem has drifted away.

  8. Are you familiar with the poet Jude Nutter? She has a wonderful collection called I Wish I Had a Heart Like Yours, Walt Whitman. It's great.

  9. @LifetimeReader - Thanks for that. I heard it all the way down here in Miami.

    @Parrish Lantern - Thanks very much for both. I have to admit that I haven't read Joyce's poetry yet, but now you've talked me into it (thanks). And the compliment is well-deserved. You always have such interesting things to say. I've added you to my "blogs we're reading" list as well.

    @Red - Thanks for the comment. I'm with you - thanks to the question, I think I'm going to wade into the waters of poetry for a while too.

    @petekarnas - I love them too. I don't know where I've ever read a more succinct statement of the human condition.

    @Amy - Thanks for the recommendation, Amy. I'm ordering a copy now.

  10. Yes, why is it that I've not had a single blog post until now about the poetry I love?! And I tell people that I love poetry more than anything?! Shame on me.

    Here's my post:

  11. erm favourite poet W B yeats ,his poems always touch me ,his poetry collection was one of my earliest purchases ,all the best stu

  12. I'm not much of a poetry person in that I don't go LOOKING for poems unless someone says something about a poem or poet. I'd never read Song of Myself until I read your post and then went through the net looking for it. It is indeed beautiful! I have done some of Whitman's shorter poems in college and they have always been a pleasure to read.
    Song of Myself is a reminder of that pleasure.^_^


  13. Oh! And having said all that, my favourite poet is Keats. I fell in love with his poetry after reading Ode to Autumn. It appeals so strongly to the senses that it sent me reeling!

  14. Excellent choice. Whitman is my favorte poet, too. :-)