SharingPoets@StPauls - April Discussion Starter

For years, SharingPoets@StPauls has brought together members of our community to share and discuss poetry. We are still “meeting” each month via e-mail, so make sure to send your name and email to Fr. Tom Holahan, CSP at tholahan@paulist.org to be included in the discussion group if you haven’t already done so! Read this month’s unabridged discussion starter below.

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SharingPoets for April 2022

First of all, happy poetry month! I recently watched the two-part video “In Search of Walt Whitman” (https://www.pbs.org/show/search-walt-whitman/ also on YouTube). It is a wonderful evocation of the poet’s artistic evolution as well as showing the depth of emotion he was able to wring from what seems common phrases. His talent was not connected to the poetry writing of his day. One critic reviewing the very first edition of “Leaves of Grass” (which included only 12 poems) was convinced Whitman had undergone a mystical experience in order to write the way he did. Scholars have discovered that experience in Whitman’s poem “Reminiscence”: When the snows had melted, and the Fifth Month grass was growing, Up this sea-shore, in some briers, Two guests from Alabama—two together, And their nest, and four light-green eggs, spotted with brown, And every day the he-bird, to and fro, near at hand, And every day the she-bird, crouched on her nest, silent, with bright eyes, And every day I, a curious boy, never too close, never disturbing them, Cautiously peering, absorbing, translating. And then another poem, “A Word Out of the Sea,” completes the thought: A man—yet by these tears a little boy again, Throwing myself on the sand, confronting the waves, I, chanter of pains and joys, uniter of here and here- after, Taking all hints to use them—but swiftly leaping beyond them, A reminiscence sing. Whitman saw himself as uniting the various people in America and communing their joys and sorrows. In other words he had both visionary poetic ideas as well poignant emotional ones. The website poetry.org offers a close reading of Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” that shows how a description of a ferry crossing turns into much more than that by the poem’s end. You can download the Reading Guide for the description at https://poets.org/text/guide-walt-whitmans-leaves-grass Let’s honor Walt Whitman during National Poetry Month and follow his example of “translating” the birdsong in our own experience so that others can hear it and understand! Fr Tom

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