Happy New Year, friends! (Even though we are already halfway through January – how is that possible?) I have been in the midsts of a busy tax season & new semester at school, so things have been hectic, to say the least. But I have been reading a lot and still have so many things I want to think about with you, so I thought the easiest way to ease back into writing regularly is with a Whitman Wednesday post. Today, we start on Book II of Leaves of Grass. The first poem here, “Starting from Paumanok” is really long, 19 pieces, so here’s just the first part.
Starting from fish-shape Paumanok where I was born, Well-begotten, and rais'd by a perfect mother, After roaming many lands, lover of populous pavements, Dweller in Mannahatta my city, or on southern savannas, Or a soldier camp'd or carrying my knapsack and gun, or a miner in California, Or rude in my home in Dakota's woods, my diet meat, my drink from the spring, Or withdrawn to muse and meditate in some deep recess, Far from the clank of crowds intervals passing rapt and happy, Aware of the fresh free giver the flowing Missouri, aware of mighty Niagara, Aware of the buffalo herds grazing the plains, the hirsute and strong-breasted bull, Of earth, rocks, Fifth-month flowers experienced, stars, rain, snow, my amaze, Having studied the mocking-bird's tones and the flight of the mountain-hawk, And heard at dawn the unrivall'd one, the hermit thrush from the swamp-cedars, Solitary, singing in the West, I strike up for a New World.
Do you remember discovering where Whitman was born? (He lived in Long Island, if you forgot!) Here, I think he’s venturing out of his fish-shaped home (do you think Long Island looks like a little fish attached to New York State?) and he’s discovering the rest of America, from Manhattan to North Dakota.
I think this is a great poem to think about as I start the new year. I have been in such a rush to meet deadlines at school and work, that I haven’t taken any time to withdraw “to muse and meditate in some deep recess” which is honestly all I want to do every December. I have been reading “White Trash” right now, which is a 400 year history of class in America, so I’ve found myself thinking a lot about what life was like in the 18th and 19th century. I have been questioning whether our current idea of growing up in a log cabin is actually quaint and completely false. But I digress. After an insane 2016, this poem has instilled in me a renewed sense of hope, exploration, and curiosity as we strike up for a New Year.
How about you? What are your New Year resolutions? What are you reading? Please tell me everything since we last spoke.