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.