Katherine’s Bridge to the Blog

As students when we read literature we often look for allusions to past literature that we have read. Traditions are common allusions that students find when we read poetry or prose. Tradition can be an aspect of the ancient Greek culture of the epic or religious traditions that have impacted Dante in his Divine Comedy and some even reference Dante  in long poems like Eliot. However, Walt Whitman takes on the challenge of creating a new tradition by merging the old with the new together.

Today in class many of my peers discussed the idea of Whitman’s sense of Tradition. Miller, in his article, mentions the idea of a Supreme Fiction where many writers, like Walt Whitman, want to make an American epic through the long poem. Miller describes a Supreme Fiction as “a particularly American way of conceiving or perceiving or receiving the world” (Miller 16). I believe that the concept of a Supreme Fiction or epic might not be achieved with the American Long Poem, because I agree with Poe’s interpretation of the Long poem. Poe believes that the long poem can’t have a stable intensity through hundreds of pages.  In the case of Walt Whitman, I find the intensity to lull a bit, but where the point really drives a point it can have the desired stable intensity.

Besides tradition, whether being merged together with old and new, as a style or form of Whitman’s Song of Myself, there seems to be an undetermined definition of what style of poetry it is. Even though, I tell my mother that it is a lyrical rant about the idealized or romanticized American individual, our class really couldn’t agree to one term or even come up one central idea pertaining to what Song Of Myself was really about. Why would someone not be able to pin-point a definite answer when it comes to style, form or about-ness in this particular long poem? Or is it that the long poem, as Professor Scanlon asked in class, a failure to meet the expectations of an audience? Walt Whitman would think that we were doing what he said by trying to find out we are suppose to find out with in the poem.

While Whitman might say that, we are still in the position of struggling to find the answer, which could be the one thing that poetry doesn’t want us to do. Isn’t poetry about how you feel when you finish reading it? And if that feeling is confused, isn’t the reason that you are feeling that way is just as important as why it makes you feel that way?

“Be curious, not judgmental.” — Walt Whitman

One Response to “Katherine’s Bridge to the Blog”

  1. Jen says:

    I agree with both you and Poe that the long poem may not be able to sustain the amount of intensity as say Emily Dickinson’s “Much Madness”; however if “Supreme Fiction” is an American way of perceiving and receiving the world, I don’t think the long poem should necessarily be ruled out because of a lack of sustained intensity. Do we really perceive and receive the world with such an intensity? I feel as if the long poem, in its very tendency to fluctuate between profoundness and ordinariness–to gain momentum and then gradually lull–mimics the rhythm of life. If life teemed with the amount of intensity of an 8-line lyric poem, I’m not sure we would be able to handle it.

    Also, just want to say I absolutely love your final paragraph and the questions you present. I think you are so right in saying that Whitman does not want us to reduce his work to a single answer of what his poetry is “about.” Maybe it isn’t “about” anything at all…maybe it just “is.” He certainly wants us to talk about it, wants us to connect with, and wants us to find meaning in it–but as always with Whitman, he does not seem to be a fan of reducing things to a singularity–it’s all about the multitude of possibilities.