WW, the first modern US poet, “broke the new wood” (Pound), freed us from rhymed verse, & of modern men he sung!
Walt embraced “teeming worlds of nature, humanity & self.” The Whitman Archive
From anonymous 1855 1st ed to hooplah in 1990s as Clinton’s gift to Lewinsky, Leaves of Grass, a seminal book of poetry.
“I am with you, you men & women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence.” – Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
She never met WW, nor likely read his #poetry, but ED crafted her own independent spirit & inner life into ~1800 poems
Though often difficult for me, ED opened up “entire worlds of intense emotion & experience in miniature” in her sparse hyphenated poetry
WW kept adding poetry to later editions of LoG; Public-shy ED published merely 10 poems before her death. 597 poems here
One of her most famous poems “Because I could not stop for Death – He kindly stopped for me.”
Parting is all we know of heaven, And all we need of hell Indeed! ‘Parting is such sweet sorrow’
His tweets made me reach out to the two volumes on my shelf – The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. First Emily Dickinson
I have this wonderful volume by Avenel Books – it compiles from three previous publications Poems, 1890; Poems, Second Series, 1891 and Poems, Third Series. The introduction is by George Gesner who narrates the story of the enigmatic and reclusive Emily Dickinson. In 1862, TW Higginson received four poems from Emily – he rejected the poems even though they represented “a new, free and unorthodox style of poetry“. As a result, George Gesner writes
It may very well be that the rejection and criticism of her poetry pushed Dickinson back into obscurity and kept her name as well as her poetry unknown during her lifetime. It may also be true that since there were no publication pressures and restrictions, Dickinson was able to write in an unhampered, intense and original style.
The story goes that her poems were published four years after her death in 1886. Her sister found hundreds of her poems. The same TW Higginson worked with Mary Loomb, wife of a local professor to bring out the various volumes in 1890, 1891 and 1896.
I will quote the poems on the jacket sleeves of the book (as they are meant to attract the potential reader to buy the book)
It sounded as if the streets were running
And then the streets stood still
Eclipse was all we could see at the window
And awe was all we could feel.
By and by the boldest stole out of his covert,
To see if time was there.
Nature was in her beryl apron
Mixing fresher air
This is from the backside of the book
This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me, –
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!
The classic Simon & Garfunkel “For Emily whenever I may find her” is a tribute to her. I found this excellent post on the blogosphere.
Now, it would be injustice to write about Walt Whitman here. So I will do a part 2 of this post tomorrow.