Portrait: from an 1854 engraving by Samuel Hollyer (from www.poets.org)
An American poet who was born on Long Island, New York in 1819 and died in Camden, NJ in 1892. Whitman is an American original, and in my humble opinion, a man ahead of his time. I didn’t appreciate him until recent years.
There are two verse sections from Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself” that I especially like. These verse sections are 4 and 5. This excerpt I ran across in an anthology compiled by Stephen Mitchell entitled “The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Spiritual Poetry.” After looking some into Walt Whitman’s life, I learned that in the years June 1853 or June 1854 Walt Whitman experienced a spiritual awakening. Written in 1855, it can be speculated that this awakening is captured in this poem “Song of Myself.”
For a good analysis of “Song of Myself” check out former U.S. Poet Laureate, Robert Haas, and his insight on this poem: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125789927
Here I want to include the Whitman poem “A Noiseless Patient Spider.” I ran across this poem when it was among those included in the Poem in Your Pocket day a couple of years ago. This event takes place on one day during April’s National Poetry Month — this year’s POEM IN YOUR POCKET DAY is THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 2012. For more information consult this web page: http://www.poets.org/page.php/prmID/406
The year that I celebrated this event this is the poem I carried around with me for a few days:
A NOISELESS PATIENT SPIDER
A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood, isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you O my Soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres
to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my Soul.
(written in the 1860s, this poem was first published in the 1871-72 edition of Leaves of Grass)