I’m all about being able to express yourself through writing. If you can show us how you really are by writing about it, I think that’s great. But as I sit here with a fever, trying to read Walt Whitman, I become more and more nauseous. I don’t know why, but I do.
Whitman’s “Song of Myself” is one of the strangest things I’ve ever read. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s super cool, well written, and all that stuff. Some parts of it strike me the wrong way. He starts off by saying, “I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself/And what I assume you shall assume/
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you” (OpenAmLit). He really stresses that he celebrates himself, and that what everyone else assumes of him he assumes of himself, basically saying that he’s very open to anything and that people should pick up on the vibes he’s dishing out. He goes on to say some cool stuff, then goes to this: “The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love/The sickness of one of my folks or of myself, or ill-doing or/loss or lack of money, or depressions or exaltations,/Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful/news, the fitful events;/These come to me days and nights and go from me again/But they are not the Me myself.?Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,/Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle,/unitary,/Looks down, is erect, or bends an arm on impalpable/certain rest,/Looking with side-curved head curious what will come next,/Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering/at it” (OpenAmLit). Call me crazy, but that just got real intimate real quick. He goes from talking about being with nature to talking about what seems to be his penis. Maybe I’m too new-aged to be talking about this, but is it possible that the whole second half of that quote was about his penis?
Which brings up another point that I was pondering on writing about. Was Whitman born in the wrong time? It’s safe to assume that not only was he homosexual/bisexual, but that he was also a writer caught in the transition between transcendentalism and realism. You can see both of these very clearly in his works, and in particular, in “Song of Myself.” The title alone has hints of both of those. But regardless, do you think that his ideals were too early?
It’s surprising to me that in today’s America, with all these laws being passed for gay rights, that works like this aren’t popping up more. It also makes you wonder that if Whitman had wrote this poem today, if it would have the same value that it had 150 years ago.
The more I read Whitman, the deeper my thoughts get.