'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

09 April 2012

Walt Whitman

1819 - 1892
 “This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”
Portrait of Walt Whitman by Thomas Eakins 
and these photographs by Eakins are believed to also be Walt Whitman.
“I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
              For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you."from Song of Myself
Of course he was not always an old man.
Notes for the performance below .

 Once described obscene for its overt sexuality, Walt Whitman’s collection of poems in Leaves of Grass takes on new life through a naked, dance-inspired adaptation. Conceived and directed by Jeremy Bloom, Leaves of Grass features a diverse, unclothed cast of over 20 performers rhythmically chanting Whitman’s most groundbreaking poems including “Song of Myself,” “I Sing the Body Electric,” and “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking.” Experience Walt Whitman’s epic text as chamber theater meets dance theater meets congregation meets celebration – and join Whitman in proclaiming, “If I worship one thing more than another, it shall be the spread of my own body.”

'Leaves of Grass' naked 2010

Leaves of Grass is a poetry collection written by Walt Whitman and although the first edition was published in 1855, Whitman spent his entire life writing Leaves of Grass, revising it in several editions until his death. Do buy yourself a copy and you will be the richer for having read it. Treasure it. As was with the case of the poems of Michelangelo in the work of Whitman the sex of some was changed from HIM to HER before publishing. Some was even self censorship. The discovery of early manuscripts have in both cases shown the original homoerotic intention.
Two Poems by Walt Whitman
Once I pass'd through a populous city imprinting my brain for future
use with its shows, architecture, customs, traditions,
Yet now of all that city I remember only a man I casually met
there who detain'd me for love of me,
Day by day and night by night we were together--all else has long
been forgotten by me,
I remember I say only that man who passionately clung to me,
Again we wander, we love, we separate again,
Again he holds me by the hand, I must not go,
I see him close beside me with silent lips sad and tremulous.

We two boys together clinging
One the other never leaving
Up and down the roads going, North and South excursions making,
Power enjoying, elbows stretching, fingers clutching,
Arm'd and fearless, eating, drinking, sleeping, loving,
No law less than ourselves owning, sailing, soldiering, thieving, threatening,
Misers, menials, priests alarming, air breathing, 
Water drinking, on the turf or the sea-beach dancing,
Cities wrenching, ease scorning, statutes mocking, 
Feebleness chasing, Fulfilling our foray.
Beautiful Photos for the Poetry of Walt Whitman
 by Anthony Gayton
The Lovers of Walt Whitman
Harry Stafford                              Bill Duckett                                     Peter Doyle

Walt Whitman, the father of modern American poetry, was the longtime lover of Peter Doyle, a tram conductor and son of a blacksmith. The couple first met on a Washington, DC streetcar in 1865, when Whitman was 45 and 6 ft. tall and Doyle was 21 and 5 ft. 8 in. Doyle had a lasting impact on Whitman’s work and as he was present at Lincoln’s assassination, he influenced Whitman’s writings about that event. Whitman was a friend of the President’s former secretary John Hay and had seen Lincoln in person many times. Pete also affected Whitman’s most popular and well known Lincoln poem “O Captain! My Captain!”  which unlike most of Whitman’s, is metered and rhymed. Doyle did, however, affect Whitman’s decision to excise three poems from the 1867 edition of “Leaves Of Grass” that expressed despair over Whitman’s earlier failed relationship with another Irishman, Fred Vaughan, who married after splitting from him. In a letter, Walt enthused, 
“I never dreamed that you made so much of having me with you, nor that you should feel so downcast at losing me.” 
Soon afterward, when Pete griped about his job, Walt wrote promising
“a good smacking kiss, many of them – taking in return many, many from my dear son – good loving ones too.” 
For  two decades, Pete and Walt continued to correspond, and Pete continued to visit regularly, but drifted apart and in 1876, Walt met another working class youth, an emotionally unstable young man of eighteen, Harry Stafford, an office clerk. Harry became Walt’s new “darling boy.”
 "Dear Harry, not a day or night passes but I think of you. . . . 
Dear son, how I wish you could come in now, even if but for an hour & take off your coat, & sit on my lap--"
Like Fred Vaughan before him, Harry would marry in 1884, but he and Walt would remain friends. Another possible lover was Bill Duckett (possibly the Thomas Eakin photo to the left) whom he met as a young teenage boy of 15 and lived in on the same street around 1880 and moved in with Whitman, living with him a number of years and serving him in various roles.
Walt had several strokes died of tuberculosis on March 26, 1892 aged 73.
I have looked for films of Walt Whitman and there is none. What neglect. 
Ryan Reed has the script!!!! See his pitch.

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