Back in college, in order to complete my English major I had to take what is known as a Major Authors course – a class focused on the works of one or two major authors. Admittedly, I first had my eye on a Poe and Hawthorne course, but the timing for that class didn’t work for my schedule, so I found myself in a Walt Whitman course with a professor who had a profoundly positive influence on my academic career. In short, that class was the highlight of my college experience.
If you’re not familiar with Walt Whitman’s poetry, well… you should be. I now have a well-loved copy of Leaves of Grass in my possession and it’s one of my favorites. Anyway, after that class I also took a creative writing course with the same professor, and my time learning about ol’ Uncle Walt directly inspired one of my final poems for that class, which is below:
Walt Whitman could stand on rooftops
and he could sound his barbaric ‘Yawp!’ to the world.
I have stood on rooftops, but the most I have ever managed,
is a decidedly anticlimactic ‘squeak.’
Walt Whitman marveled at the splendor of a noiseless, patient spider
while I crushed their silken threads with a boot.
Walt Whitman made a promise to California,
but I have never seen those distant, golden shores.
Walt Whitman could hear America singing,
but it’s a tune I’ve never been able to carry.
Walt Whitman sang the song of the open road, a call to all the world,
I have stared down empty highways, fearful of where they lead.
I am no Walt Whitman.
But someday, I should like to lay in leaves of grass
beneath a splendid, silent sun
and the song of myself will take shape
and I will come out from behind this mask
set sail upon that sea of time
and while I am roaming in thought,
I will find that all is truth.
The world should take good notice
of men like Walt Whitman.
And the world should hope to see
many poets to come
who heard his song of the universal,
and learned well his lessons
and they shall sound a carol of words
to the kosmos.
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