Poetry Friday: Walt Whitman

Every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”
~ Walt Whitman ~

I’ve been avoiding the news recently. The headlines are overwhelming and depressing. I feel helpless to make any meaningful contribution to changing the tenor of our times. But the world is full of antidotes to this feeling of helplessness. This week, I found several on a trek into New York City, where I was fortunate to visit two celebrations of the bicentennial of Walt Whitman’s birth.

The New York Public Library has an intimate gallery where treasures from the library’s collection are exhibited. Walt Whitman: America’s Poet is currently on view.  Original copies of Whitman’s work are on display, as well as works that influenced him and books by poets from around the world who have been inspired by him. One of the most powerful pieces in the exhibit is a video by filmmaker Jennifer Crandall.  Her project, Whitman, Alabamais the result of spending two years traveling throughout Alabama, meeting and engaging with people from all walks of life. Crandall filmed these folks reading from Whitman’s great work, Leaves of Grass. The resulting film reminds us that we have much more in common than not, and our strength comes from what we share. Here is a sample.

“Song of Myself”
Verse 16
by Walt Whitman

I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,
Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,
Stuff’d with the stuff that is coarse and stuff’d with the stuff that is fine,
One of the Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the largest the same,

Read the rest here.

Leaving this exhibit, we walked down 5th Avenue, among people from “many nations,” to The Morgan Library and Museum. Here, Walt Whitman: Bard of Democracy is on view. This show traces Whitman’s life and explores the influence of his early life in Brooklyn as well as his experiences as a nurse during the Civil War, among others, on his development as a poet.

Taken together, these shows gave me hope that our country can withstand and overcome the onslaughts we’re currently facing.

Please be sure to visit my good friend and critique group partner, Margaret Simon, at Reflections on the Teche for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: July 20, 1969

When school ended in June, I had a difficult time getting back into a writing routine. I searched through some of my favorite resources looking for an idea that would jump start my writing. This prompt, from Laurel Snyder in The Creativity Projectedited by Colby Sharp, appealed to me:

“You can create anything you want, anything at all! The only catch is that you need to mention:

  1. A type of fruit
  2. An animal
  3. Something musical
  4. Some sort of machine
  5. A historical figure

Now, go crazy, but be sure to include them all.”

Here is what I created:

July 20, 1969

She sat in front of the TV
cross-legged on the living room rug
still wearing her shorts covered
in drips from watermelon
she’d eaten at the neighbor’s picnic
celebrating Apollo 11’s moon landing.

It was long past her bedtime.
Everyone had gone home to watch
this historic event in their own living rooms,
on their own TVs.

Suddenly, Neil Armstrong’s voice
crackled across a quarter million miles of space.
She was so nervous it was hard to sit still.
She hugged her cat close.

A ghostly image appeared on the screen.
There he was!
Coming down the ladder as easily
as if he were climbing out of her fort
in the maple tree out back.

She cheered, startling Luna,
who was named for the moon
because of her smoky gray fur.
She began to sing a song
she’d heard at the picnic,
“Good morning, starshine,”
hoping her voice would calm the cat.

But then she laughed out loud.
Maybe by now it was morning,
and a star was shining
and it was so bright she could see
men walking on the moon.

© Catherine Flynn, 2019

“That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” Neil Armstrong

Please be sure to visit Carol at Carol’s Corner for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Found Haiku

My friend and critique group partner, Linda Mitchell, was in the “spotlight” at Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’s blog, Today’s Little Ditty, last week. Linda challenged Poetry Friday friends to “create a ‘found haiku’ from “an interesting article.” This challenge appealed to me immediately and I found two article in last weekend’s New York Times that had potential. The first article is “Kids Need a Digital Detox: A Ball,” by Nellie Bowles.

digital detox:
playing with blocks and painting
live fully present

Perfect advice, don’t you think?

The next article, “Letter of Recommendation: Dinghy Rowing,” by Heidi Julavits, made me want to go buy a dinghy. It was a joy to read and reread this exquisite piece of writing, finding just the right lines for this haiku.

Full confession: I did have to rearrange some phrases slightly to meet the 5-7-5 syllable count in both haiku.

Thank you, Linda and Michelle, for this fun challenge!

Please be sure to visit Jone MacCulloch at Deo Writer for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Happy Birthday, Dad

Today would have been my father’s 82nd birthday.  He died almost twenty years ago from a sudden heart attack. Dad joined the Air Force after high school, although he always said he wanted to go into the Navy. I think he dreamed of being a naval pilot, but the closest he came to that dream was building Sikorsky helicopters during the height of the Vietnam war.

My father wasn’t a “reader,” although he knew a lot about history and did read nonfiction about World War II. Reading poetry definitely wasn’t on his list of favorite activities. But when he died, my sister found this poem, which we agree he would have loved, to read at his funeral.

“High Flight”
by John Magee

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

My father, proudly marching in our town’s Fireman’s parade, c. 1970

Please be sure to visit Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect for the Poetry Friday Roundup.