When: Tuesdays, Feb 11 – Mar 3, 9:30-11:30am
Where: The Hampton Inn
Cost: $120.00 for 4 session(s)
Instructor: Charles Alexander is an Artist, Poet, Bookmaker, Professor, and founder/director of Chax Press.
The Good Gray Poet at 200!
The bicentennial of Walt Whitman falls only 45 years after the bicentennial of the USA. Whitman has been with us almost as long as the red white and blue flag with stars. It seems time to look at Whitman in terms of what he wrote, what he thought, and how his words have remained with us. The poet of democracy, the poet of belief in westward expansion, the poet who said he contained multitudes, the poet who wept openly at the graves of Civil War soldiers. The poet who rose from the ranks of common Americans to be celebrated in his lifetime, but whose reputation also slipped after his death, revived by modernist poets who saw Whitman as an important precursor to the task of “making it new.” Whitman the free verse proponent whose long lines seem to come out of the Book of Ecclesiastes, Whitman the Romantic elegist who celebrated Abraham Lincoln in a poem of traditional form and meter, Whitman who called for an America that lived up to its initial promise of democracy for all.
In four sessions we will plunge deeply into that song of myself which becomes a song of all selves as we discuss this founding poet of American literature, perhaps the only such poet who allied himself so completely with the American dream.
Week 1: Body and Soul
A Consideration of the young Whitman.
Reading: Biographical Sketch, Starting from Paumanok, Song of Myself, I Sing the Body Electric
Week 2: Determined, Dared, Done
Whitman’s Poetry Middle to End
Reading: In Paths Untrodden, I Hear it was Charged against Me, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, Song of the Exposition, Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking, As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life, When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d, O Captain My Captain, Passage to India, To a Locomotive in Winter
Week 3: He Wrote Prose, Too!
Whitman’s Articulation of Ideas of Freedom, Progress, and Democracy
Reading: Preface to Leaves of Grass, Democratic Vistas, Selections from Specimen Days
Week 4: What We Made of Whitman
Ideas of Whitman from Dickinson, Woolf, Pound, Ginsberg, Creeley, Silliman, Conrad
Readings and Quotations (including from letters, poems, and essays): Pound’s sense of his “pact” with Whitman, Ginsberg’s sense of commonality and otherness with Whitman, Creeley’s spirit of the word, Silliman’s attempt a la Whitman to write everything, and Conrad’s call for a reexamination of Whitman’s ethics. A survey of Whitman’s reputation from dangerous and dark, to good and gray, to, simply, a classic.