Friday, May 21, 2010

Walt Whitman

Whitman’s poems had a profound impact upon American Transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Bronson Alcott (father of Louisa May Alcott). With Alcott and Sarah Tyndale in tow, Thoreau bearded Whitman at his home in New York in 1856 following release of the second edition of Leaves of Grass. Whitman gave Thoreau a signed a copy of the book, of which Thoreau would later exclaim “It has done me more good than any reading in a long time.”

But Thoreau was also disconcerted “by 2 or 3 pieces in the book which are disagreeable to say the least.” “Simply sensual” was how he described them…“as if the beasts spoke. I think men have not been ashamed of themselves without reason...There have always been dens where such deeds were unblushingly recited and it is no merit to compete with their inhabitants. But even on this side he has spoken with more truth than any American or modern I know. I have found his poems exhilarating, encouraging.”

Submitted by Winnipeg writer and poet David Scott, with additional material from Love Stories: Sex Between Men Before Homosexuality, by Jonathan Ned Katz.)