By Alyssa Campbell
In honor of poetry month I wanted to write something to celebrate one of my favorite American poets, Walt Whitman. He was a poet who wasn’t afraid to reject the traditional poetry style. By challenging it he created a new style, known today as free verse. His genius wasn’t appreciated during his time but he opened new doors by consistently showing a strong sense of self, confidence and devotion towards human dignity. He was able to see the beauty and love in all people and represent that by tying everything back to himself. He did this in a completely non egotistical or vain way. Instead he was able to see the divine within himself that he saw in all people.
He has inspired some of the greatest writers including Langston Hughes, with his admirable unapologetic desire to express himself truthfully. His use of repetition helps to place importance on certain feelings that are brought forward through his poetry. His choice of diction and word placement give his poetry a completely new form because it carries so much depth and opens new possibilities. I especially enjoy the way he describes the senses and the natural world. His outlook shows that he loved the mystical and saw this all as a part of who we are.
Essentially Walt Whitman is a reflection of all of us, the confidence we all seek to find within ourselves. He truly had a love for helping people. He was someone who wanted to bring forward the good in humanity by demonstrating it through his own acts of kindness. The poem by Whitman that inspired this piece is from “Song of Myself” beginning number 24 and ending on line 544. I wanted to try to create a piece that would capture the different points he made by using myself. He starts by introducing himself, “Walt Whitman, kosmos, of Manhattan the son.” By adding “kosmos” after his name he is embracing the idea that he is a part of the universe, therefore from the beginning he introduces himself as a part of everyone and everything.
I wanted to mirror that first line, but I put “infinite” representing that we are all full of many possibilities and our souls are endless. This also ties into Whitman’s view on death, which he saw as something just as beautiful as life. He believed it is just the beginning for something else, another life. Although Whitman was not from Manhattan I believe he wrote “of Manhattan the son” because he drew a lot of inspiration from there. It inspired a lot of his work, including “Leaves of Grass.” Although Oregon is a new chapter in my life and has been inspiring so much of my work, being from Long Beach, I wanted to use that. It’s where I came from and has made me who I am today.
He talks about basically cutting yourself loose from whatever it is that is limiting you, “Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from the jambs!” My take on this was to use a window, the idea of flying and being free. When referring to “free fall” it was NOT to glamorize the idea of death or suicide, but to represent letting yourself go and not holding yourself back.
In line 506 he touches on his belief that we are all equal and that is what he lives by. I definitely wanted to mirror that in my poem. Starting line 508 he wrote how he is the unfortunate in this word. He doesn’t look down on them nor separate them from himself.
Going further Whitman does a beautiful job touching on the senses. In each line of “Leaves of Grass” he uses diction that expresses the human body as a beautiful creation, by making that connection to everything around us. Whether it be “shaded legs,” “rich blood,” “breast that presses against other breasts,” “trickling sap of maple,” “fibre of manly wheat,” “broad muscular fields,” “branches of live oak.”
People looked down on and shamed Whitman for being so open about his sexuality. He wrote “voices of sexes and lusts, voices veil’d and I remove the veil.” Which he certainly did. I wanted to talk about a veil that I hope to lift through my poetry which is not feeling bad for FEELING. A lot of the time we are told to suppress our feelings, deal with it, keep it to ourselves. Channeling those emotions into poetry and art is an amazing form of therapy and there is definitely something out there for everyone to connect to.
“Re-examine all that you have been told… dismiss that which insults your soul.”
“Be curious, not judgmental.”
“I exist as I am, that is enough.”
“I am not the poet of goodness only, I do not decline to be the poet of wickedness also.”
“The wonder is always and always how there can be a mean man or an infidel.”
“The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.”
“I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.”
Song of Myself
by Alyssa Campbell
Alyssa Campbell, Infinite, of Long Beach the daughter,
Sensitive, sincere, millennial, bleeding and healing
No saint, no stranger to the fabricated reflection of my ancestor’s through my parents
No more guided than misguided.
Push through the fog of depression and fly through open windows!
Push through the windows and free fall!
Whoever belittles another belittles me
And those who hurt with longing to be loved are loved by me
Through me is hope and feeling and feeling , through me the sheeple and the
I cry the tears of the empathetic and I give voice to the voiceless.
For He is my witness! I will settle for nothing less than equality for all until it is practiced by all through love and compassion.
Through me the struggle of the streets,
Whispers from the darkest places of the mind creating prisons out of flesh
Whispers from the sick and the suffering and of the crazy and cool
I believe in the tired and the trapped,
Loving, hurting, overcoming, are things to look forward to and the pain I have felt has been necessary in shaping me.
Whole am I, never craving the love of another to fulfill the void in my heart. I am love and loved.
If I look where I worship it is not in any figure or person or being but the divine within me that is a part of something greater
Growing and going further it is because of you!
Broken branches and colorful flower petals stand out because they mirror both sides of you!
The sound of the rain on my roof, sinking into the earth of my skin is in praise of you!
The sun shines and gives me life, cleansing what no longer serves my soul inspired by you!
Faces I have seen and have never seen and that I am waiting to see are all revealed in the image of you!
The depths of the ocean, the rays of the sun, the hypnotizing glow of the moon, the possibilities of the stars shining confidently show all the greatness you shall become.