Sunday, July 7, 2013

Serious Poetry Often Eludes Me




Preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass

"This is what you shall do: love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence towards the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school, or church, or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body."

From: The Walt Whitman Archive

The poetry of Walt Whitman, published as Leaves of Grass, has always mystified me. I have read the book several times over the course of my life. Parts of it fill me with wonder at what a poem can evoke in me as I read the words and suddenly feel the vivid mental image revealed (whether or not it was the emotion intended by the poet.) But then other parts leave me cold, compelling me to wrinkle my nose, crinkle my eyes, and shake my head in disinterest, derision, and more than mild distaste.

Is this much lauded parcel of Mr. Whitman's poetry, this Leaves of Grass, a genuine enigma?

Or is it perhaps I... that is the mystery?



In ten minutes, a hurricane expends more energy than all of the known nuclear weapons in the world combined. (I found this curious bit of trivia, copied it, and used it here... but I am not at all sure I believe it.)



Mary Elizabeth Jenkins Surratt
On this day, July 7 in 1865 Mary Surratt was executed by the government for her role as a conspirator in Abraham Lincoln's assassination. Mary Surratt's boarding house, located a few blocks from Ford's Theater, where Lincoln was murdered, served as the place where a group of Confederate supporters, including John Wilkes Booth, conspired to assassinate the president. Many expected President Andrew Johnson to pardon Surratt because the U.S. government had never hanged a woman.

But the pardon never came.

Details here



1. Requiring immediate action or remedy.
2. Requiring much effort or expense; demanding.
urgent, pressing, imperative



(born July 7, 1940)
Ringo Starr (born Richard Starkey) is an English musician, singer and actor who gained worldwide fame as the drummer for the Beatles. He sang lead vocals on several of their songs, including "With a Little Help from My Friends", "Yellow Submarine" and a version of "Act Naturally". He is also credited as a co-writer of "What Goes On", "Flying" and "Dig It", and as the sole author of "Don't Pass Me By" and "Octopus's Garden".

(born July 7, 1968)
Jorja Fox is an American actress, musician and songwriter. She first came to prominence as a recurring guest star on the television medical drama ER, portraying the recurring role of Dr. Maggie Doyle from 1996 to 1999. This was followed by another critical success in the recurring role of Secret Service Agent Gina Toscano on The West Wing in 2000. She is arguably best known for her work as Sara Sidle in the hit CBS police procedural drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, a role she has portrayed as both a regular (2000-2007) and recurring (2008-2010) cast member.

(born July 7, 1927)
Doc Severinsen is an American pop and jazz trumpeter. He is best known for leading the NBC Orchestra on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

(born July 7, 1949)
Shelley Duvall is an American film and television actress. Duvall began her career starring in a multitude of his films in the 1970s, including Brewster McCloud (1970), Thieves Like Us (1974), Nashville (1975), and 3 Women (1977). Duvall had a supporting role in Annie Hall (1977) before starring in Altman's Popeye (1980), and Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980), which gained her international recognition.

Later, Duvall had roles in Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits (1981), Tim Burton's Frankenweenie (1984), and Jane Campion's The Portrait of a Lady (1996).


Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.
--Edgar Allan Poe


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