‘A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;  How could I answer the child?’

Pop Culture Whitman: ‘Speaking to Invisible Listeners’

This is a lovely talk about Whitman and his relationship with his readers. Click here to open the video window. WordPress is being fussy and won’t allow me to embed the video, unfortunately. It’s well worth the watch, so I hope you check it out.

Pop Culture Whitman: New Yorker

” ‘But for the opera, I could never have written Leaves of Grass,’ Walt Whitman said late in life. That line is the opening salvo in Matthew Aucoin’s program notes to ‘Crossing,’ an opera that he composed, wrote the libretto for, and is now conducting at the Shubert Theater in Boston, through June 6th, for the American Repertory Theater. ‘Whitman considered opera the pinnacle of human expression,’ Aucoin writes, ‘something beyond the powers of language alone.’ But to reach that pinnacle, Aucoin hints, opera has to be redefined, at least in the minds of many Americans. ‘The essence of opera has nothing to do with stuffy salons and social one-upmanship,’ he says. It ‘is a primal union of animal longing, as expressed in sound, and human meaning, as expressed in language.’ “

Read more of the New Yorker article here!

Pop Culture Whitman: Josie Long

“When I was 12, I sang in my local choir – what a cool dude. We would do adaptations of Walt Whitman’s poems, including One’s-Self I Sing from his collection Leaves of Grass, in which he celebrates life’s ‘passion, pulse and power’. There’s a great line: ‘The female equally with the male I sing.’ When I read it for the first time, I just thought: ‘Yes!’

A few years later, I picked up one of his books for a quid. Some of his work is so epic, it’s overwhelming. As a teenager, I read a lot of poetry that was very terse, like Sylvia Plath’s, but Whitman is all over the place. I love all the Os and the exclamation marks – it’s like he just thought, ‘These are the things that I felt I must say today!’ and ‘These are the things that have happened to me!’ There are some powerful poems about the civil war, during which he worked as a nurse, but then some of it is really quite small too. He fits in all of human experience.'”

Read more of Josie’s story in the Guardian here!