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!