Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What Works?

I keep thinking about what works.  Always depends, of course, but there are some reliables: past reading + experience along with gentle questioning of how it feels, to begin with.  Recently I keep coming back to #132 in Complete Poems of E.D. (T.H. Johnson / Back Bay edition):  “I bring an unaccustomed wine / To lips long parching / Next to mine, / And summon them to drink; / Crackling with fever, they Essay….”  I find this trustworthy, affectively speaking.  And by the time we get to the last bit here my neurons are firing up, too.   

So as I’m reading, I’m implicitly asking Does this feel right? but also Does this contain or expand my intellectual universe?  Am I opened up and strengthened?  Or am I shut down and made even less significant than I already am?  When I get to Whitman’s assertions, I certainly feel the expanse:  “I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise, / Regardless of others, ever regardful of others, / Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man…” (Leaves [1855] in Whitman: Poetry & Prose, Library of America).  

I have to admit that I get a little suspicious and cautious about Whitman’s optimism and romanticism at times.  Feels like we could be set up for a fall, perhaps unnecessary fall.  Still, often the risk seems worth it.  “A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the thoughtfulest, / A novice beginning experient of myriad of seasons, / Of every hue and trade and rank, of every caste and religion, / Not merely of the New World but of Africa Europe or Asia . . . . a wandering savage, / A farmer, mechanic, or artist . . . . a gentleman, sailor, lover or quaker, / A prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician or priest. / I resist anything better than my own diversity, / And breathe the air and leave plenty after me….”  



Front Cover

Front Cover

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