I Hate Walt Whitman

I hate Walt Whitman. I have a very complicated relationship with the man. Mostly by way of his poetry, seeing as he’s been dead for some time. This week, in my reading I was forced once again to reconcile myself with Whitman. You see, I don’t dislike his poetry. In fact, I enjoy a good portion of it. But reading Whitman gets tedious, quickly. It’s the love-hate of “This poetry is so good that it makes me feel emotions and now I am upset with the poetry” that makes me hate Whitman at times. So today, I’ll be looking at Whitman in comparison to a poet I was recently introduced to. 

Here’s Whitman’s “I Hear It Was Charged Against Me”: http://www.bartleby.com/142/54.html

And here’s John Blase with “Surely, This”:  http://thebeautifuldue.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/surely-this/

 

Both of these poems deal with the poet recognizing the self and different identifiers. The speaker in Whitman’s poem addresses the accusations of destroying institutions. The speaker then distances himself from these imposed identifiers and uses a new category with which to identify: “The institution of the dear love of comrades.” The speaker supports the dear love, so much that he seeks to establish it in “every city.” 

Likewise, in his poem Blase uses his speaker to address similar identity issues. The speaker in Blase’s poem intentionally identifies as religious over spiritual, explaining the significant difference between the two and then moving towards the emphatic statement of the sparker’s identity. This mirrors the same structure that Whitman uses: An introduction of identification issues within culture, and a shift towards the speaker’s self identification.

Although these two poems share similar ways in which ideas are presented, there is a stark contrast in almost all other aspects. Stylistically, Blase writes in much shorter lines, making use of enjambment to bring focus to certain thoughts. On the other hand, Whitman ends every line at the end or a clause, fixing each idea firmly for the reader. At the same time both ignore traditional end-rhyme scheme in favor of unrhymed poetry, 

Whitman addresses serious issues in his poetry, many of a political nature. Blase deals with serious and personal issues regarding religion. Both men use their poetry to convey their strong emotions about what they find important. I enjoy Blase for his frank and real treatment of his faith, while at the same time I find Whitman frustrating for some of his straightforward dealings with the issues of being human and living in the United States when he did. So perhaps it is not that I hate Walt Whitman, but the emotions he manages to elicit from me with his poetry. 

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Church Culture and Consent

I work with the youth group at my church. With a rowdy group of kids from ten to eighteen, you get a lot of different personalities and habits. I love my students, and their individuality makes me love them even more. But recently I’ve noticed a trend within the culture of not just this youth group, but the church itself. And it has me worried.

One of the high school boys I work with likes to hug people. That’s not really the big problem though. The problem is he especially likes to hug and touch girls who tell him to stop. I am one of those girls. Almost all of my interactions with Mr. Hug involve him intentionally trying to touch me when I tell him not to do so. His understanding of consent is skewed at best. So I’m doing what I can to get him to understand that there isn’t a single situation in which touching someone when they say no is okay. Because I’m afraid that if I can’t impart this lesson in him soon, he’s going to rape someone and think nothing of it.

The problem isn’t just with one kid in youth group, though. The problem is that one of my fellow leaders does the same thing. He intentionally ignores and goes against the wishes of his friends, especially of the female persuasion, to enter into their personal space and touch them. While I know my fellow leader much better, and I am mostly confident that he would never rape someone, he’s not setting the right example for the students he claims to be leading.

And there are never any consequences for either of these people in my life. When I lecture the high school student, he laughs me off as oversensitive. My leader friend merely chuckles and tries harder to invade personal space. None of my fellow leaders or church authorities ever say anything to these people. Without consequences, my church is sending the message that these behaviors aren’t just normal, they are expected.

When Church culture says that it’s okay for guys to ignore the rules of consent in interaction, the Church is saying it doesn’t care what women have to say about their own boundaries and bodies. And when leaders model behaviors that enable young men to ignore consent, they teach (even sometimes unconsciously) that a woman’s wishes are secondary, especially at church. This sort of teaching is dangerous. It excuses inappropriate behavior in male students, and if left unchecked, could mean the difference between a “good Christian boy” respecting a girl’s desire to not have sex and rape. Until consent becomes an important lesson for both genders in all Christian communities, the Church is enabling potential abuse.

Starting a Blog or: The Ethics of Blogging for a Grade

I’ve wanted to blog for years. Reading blogs is an important part of my internet lifestyle. I’m also a writer. So blogging has always been something I’ve wanted to do. The trick is actually putting forth the effort. Planning out posts, posting on a regular schedule, actually having something that people besides my mom will want to read. These are all big obstacles that kept me from really blogging before. But now, I have the right motivation. Or do I?

When I signed up for my Modern American Poetry class, I mostly knew what I was getting into. Reading some of my favorite poets, talking about excellent poetry with other English majors, and generally growing as a writer and reader. The professor had mentioned that he might require us to blog. I thought that was cool. I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for this class. But now I’ve come to a conundrum.

What are the ethics of blogging for a grade? My blog posts will be thirty percent of my grade. Thirty! Even though I’ve wanted to blog for a long time, is it really appropriate to start a blog for the sole purpose of passing a class? I’m not so sure it is. It seems like a certain amount of betrayal to potential readers. But then again, plenty of people blog for the sole purpose of making money. Heck, even writers of poetry and fiction, while I know there is a certain love for writing that goes into choosing that profession, write to earn a living. And well, if writing for money is alright, then perhaps writing for a grade is too.

It still seems strange to me, so I’ve given myself extra tasks this semester. This isn’t going to just be a poetry blog. This is going to be my blog. I’m going to talk about things that are important to me. Like Feminism, Christianity, and of course gaming. It’s going to be a hodgepodge of topics, but then again, so am I. So in the next few weeks, I’ll be officially blogging for school, and doing my best to post at least one other post every week on another topic. Because I’m not just blogging for a grade.

I’m blogging for me.