#15: To a Certain Cantatrice

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Here we go again, another Wednesday, another Whitman poem!

To a Certain Cantatrice --   
  Here, take this gift,
  I was reserving it for some hero, speaker, or general,
  One who should serve the good old cause, the great idea, the
      progress and freedom of the race,
  Some brave confronter of despots, some daring rebel;
  But I see that what I was reserving belongs to you just as much as to any.

A cantatrice is a singer, usually an opera singer. However, the unnamed cantatrice isn’t the star of this poem. I think the focus of this poem is Whitman’s generosity with his “gift”. In this context, I think his gift is his poetry, his songs. In the same vein as “To Thee Old Cause,” Whitman doesn’t think poetry should be reserved for “the good old causes” or some Great idea. Instead, he believes in the democracy of poetry, that it should be accessible and open to all people, the Everyman, the every day unnamed singers out there.

I have been really enjoying the process of reading Leaves of Grass, because I know that I am part of Whitman’s target audience. Even though some of his poems have been a little obtuse to me (especially “Eidolons” — sheesh!) I have been able to persevere because I know that Whitman is trying to speak to me. His poetry isn’t going over my head intentionally, so it is a rather warm and welcoming feeling sinking into a new Whitman poem each week.

What other poets do you think are writing for the “Everyman”? Who are some of the most accessible and least pretentious poets that you admire? I’m already skipping a decade into the future and thinking about what other collections I should read.

As always, I invite you to join me. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or send me a link to your own #WhitmanWednesday posts and I’ll share them as well!



9 thoughts on “#15: To a Certain Cantatrice

  1. Loved hearing your thoughts on Whitman’s poem. From Whitman’s time, one poet I found very accessible was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Whitman is more acclaimed than him these days, but I love him very much. Have you read Longfellow?

      • Hope you like Longfellow’s poetry. Among modern poets, my favourite is Mary Oliver. She writes beautifully in accessible language and she mostly writes about nature. Have you read her poems? I also love this Pat Schneider poem called The Patience of Ordinary Things. Unfortunately, Schneider no longer writes poetry. Pablo Neruda is hit-and-miss for me, but I love his collection ‘Odes to Common Things’. It has odes to everyday objects and vegetables and animals, like scissors, soap, tomato, onion, dog, cat. It is so charming and beautiful. Have you read it?

        • Odes to Common Things sounds amazing! How have I never heard of this before? I’ll definitely add it to my list. I do really like Mary Oliver and have read a few of her collections before. I’ve never heard of Pat Schneider before, but I did really like the poem you shared. Some of my favorite poets include Jack Gilbert and Adrienne Rich. Have you read them before?

          • Hope you get to read Odes to Common Things and like it. I will look forward to hearing your thoughts on it. So glad to know that you like Mary Oliver! She is so wonderful, isn’t she? So happy you liked the Pat Schneider poem. I have heard of Adrienne Rich but haven’t read her poetry yet. I will try to get one of her collections one of these days. I haven’t heard of Jack Gilbert before. I want to try Gilbert’s and Rich’s poems now! Thank you!

  2. At the moment yo are my poetry fix but you have inspired me to put together some poetry posts for a few weeks time. Poetry like philosophy should be aimed towards educating the people, the best works are usually the one’s that have a simple message that resonates with all.

    • I absolutely love being the poetry fix in your life! I must admit I’m pretty uneducated when it comes to philosophy. I keep meaning to read more about it, but I never know where to start. I’m going to be eagerly looking forward to reading your poetry posts.

  3. Good starting points for philosophy from my own experiences are Camus, Sartre, Plato and Bertrand Russell, I am sure some of those will appeal to you. Keep poeting my friend and I will get into the poetry as I can and let you know when I am gearing up for it. May do a graphic novel week as well.

  4. Pingback: #21.4 Starting from Paumanok, verse 6 | Like Bears to Honey

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