Full of life now, compact, visible,
I, forty years old the eighty-third year of The States,
To one a century hence, or any number of centuries hence,
To you yet unborn these, seeking you.
When you read these I that was visible am become invisible,
Now it is you, compact, visible, realizing my poems, seeking me,
Fancying how happy you were if I could be with you and become your comrade;
Be it as if I were with you. (Be not too certain but I am now with you.)
(“Full of Life Now”)
It’s Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday today! Suzanne and Chris are celebrating by rereading Leaves of Grass, the book of poetry that Whitman kept writing, revising, and expanding throughout his life. With its ecstatic rhythms, its vigorous celebration of the body and of freedom, and its dreams of collectivity through diversity, Whitman’s poetry can be compelling, even overwhelming. And even when the book doesn’t quite live up to our hopes and dreams, it offers a path beyond itself.
The Walt Whitman Archive also contains the complete text(s).
The most famous section of Christopher Smart’s “Jubilate Agno”.
Walt Whitman reading “America”.
(Though there is some controversy about the authenticity of the recording.)
Mark Twain wrote on “The Whitman Controversy” (about Whitman’s alleged obscenity).
Some of the poems we quote:
I Sing the Body Electric (final section; later, sections 7 and 8)
Song of Myself (sections 2 and 5)
Responses to Whitman:
Allen Ginsberg: A Supermarket in California
Mark Doty: Letter to Walt Whitman
Langston Hughes: I, Too
Paul Hindemith set a requiem with When Lilacs Last in the Door-Yard Bloom’d.
Next episode: The Autobiography of Malcolm X.