Born on Long Island in 1819, Whitman is one of the America’s most recognized poets. His work, “Leaves of Grass” is often his most recognized, and was his attempt at an American Epic. Greeted with derision over his use of sexual language and talk of “naturalism”, he was a figure of controversy for most of his life.
The poem today was taken from letters written by Whitman to Peter Doyle, starting in the year of 1868 during the presidential election and ending years later, away from the chaos of Washington in the quiet of Rhode Island.
The sky was full of big balloons letting off rockets and Roman candles
‘way up among the stars. The excitement, the rush,
Ever and anon the cannon, some near, some distant. I heard them
long after I got to bed. It sounded like a distant engagement.
From the window of my room I can look
down across the city, the river, and off miles upon miles in the distance.
You see everything as you pass, a sort of living, endless panorama
To-night we will hear the big guns and see the blazing bonfires.
The fall is upon us; I will write you a line from Providence
colored with all the rich colors of autumn.
In 1922 Virginia Woolf and Victoria Mary Sackville-West met at a dinner party. After inviting Victoria (better known as Vita) to publish her work through Hogarth Press, a correspondence was born that later blossomed into friendship, followed by an affair between the two women. Even after their intimacy had faded, the two remained close friends.
There is a myth perpetuated by the editors and publishers of Emily Dickinson; a women in white, distant and reclusive, locked in her attic, lovelorn and slightly mad. Her poetry was edited to encourage this line of thought, as were the forwards published by those printing her work. But when one settles into her letters, one finds a vibrant, humorous women. She complains of the expectations of womanhood, the need to sew and clean and be presentable. She admits to finding excuses to not attend church, and talks of her wandering thoughts during the sermons she does attend. Her language is full of nature and emotion; she speaks of storms inside and out, of tears of frustration and misery, but also of robin song and violets, green grass and heat lightening.
“but come with me this morning to the church within our hearts, where the bells are always ringing, and the preacher whose name is Love – shall intercede there for us! “ (February, 1852)
November is a challenging month for me, while others wade into NaNoWriMo, my progress grinds to a halt- the holidays mean five days a week of an incredibly busy job; there are days where I’m so tired I’m falling asleep by six thirty. I have birthdays of family members, multiple Thanksgivings, and no time off. December proves to be little better.
So with that in mind I’ve set aside my larger writing projects in favor of lighter fair. Vignettes, flash fiction, and poetry, both found and original. We start ourselves of with a project I’m working on where I build poetry from the letters and essays of famous authors, with a focus on those who either confirmed or implied their homosexuality or bisexuality.