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: Embracing Nature

“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circles of compassion
to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
~ Albert Einstein ~

I recently finished reading The Invention of Nature: Alexander Humboldt’s New World, by Andrea Wulf. At 400 pages, this book isn’t a quick read, but it’s worthwhile and enlightening. Born in 1769, “Humboldt gave us our concept of nature itself.” In this amazing book, Wulf describes Humboldt’s life and work as well as his influence on Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, and John Muir, and countless other scientists, artists, and writers. In fact, Wulf writes, “Humboldt’s views have become so self-evident that we have largely forgotten the man behind them.”

A “sense of wonder for the natural world” lay at the heart of Humboldt’s work and writings, and is also found in the work of his followers. The importance of sharing and nurturing this wonder feels more urgent today than ever.

With Wulf’s words about Humboldt still swirling in my brain, it felt like serendipity when I came across these much-loved lines from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself:

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the
 origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun—there are
  millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand,
  nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the
  specters in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things
  from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.

Here’s to listening to the world from all sides and learning the lessons nature is desperately trying to teach us.

Please be sure to visit Violet Nesdoly for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Walt Whitman’s “Miracles”


Before I began student teaching, my cooperating teacher invited me to the class Christmas party so I could meet the kids. One boy wanted to know what was my favorite holiday. I didn’t hesitate a minute. “Summer,” I replied.

So even though the solstice isn’t until tomorrow, here’s to the miracle that is summer!


by Walt Whitman

Why, who makes much of a miracle?

As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,

Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,

Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,

Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of

   the water,

Or stand under trees in the woods,

Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night

   with any one I love,

Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,

Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,

Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer 


Or animals feeding in the fields,

Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,

Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so

   quiet and bright,

Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;

These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,

The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,

Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,

Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with 

   the same,

Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,

The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—

   the ships with men in them,

What stranger miracles are there?

Don’t miss this gorgeous video inspired by Whitman’s words:

Be sure to visit Jone at Check It Out for the Poetry Friday Round Up. Happy summer, everyone!