So I’m flipping through this book, Visiting Walt, taking a scroll alongside the Great Whitman through the eyes of other poets. As I flip through the pages I see memorials honoring his life, others attempting to define his life and still others simply remembering Walt in ALL of his multitudes! Now before I proceed, I must say that I am NOT speaking of Walt Disney–now that this distinction has been made and confused minds enlightened…I will began.
There was one poem in particular that stood out to me in this great collection of poems. This poem was short and lacked what I initially thought to be any substance. Even the format to me was weird. What poem you may ask, well I will tell you. The poem interestingly entitled “Meeting the Master” by Thomas Gannon goes a little something like this:
well, there I was, trudgin’ along to
class, yu’ know, when all of a sudden
I felt this squish, like I’d just
stepped on some little soft-
boned, uh, mouse or somethin’,
so I lifted up my left boot
and slowly peeled off this weird, uh–
well, sure enough, there he
was, a little teeny Walt
Whitman, flat as a
leaf of grass, only a lot
That’s it! Sounds like something from a 10th grade Mississippi football player who had to write a poem about Walt Witman. (Or so I thought) Wait…rewind for a second. Did I mention that there was a quote by Walt Witman that introduced this poem?? Ooops! Well the Witman quote, from Song of Myself read: I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love, If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles. Now in the context of that great quote the poem reads more like a 9th graders response paper(or poem) for great Whitman quotes. Anywho, I re-read the poem about 3 or more times before it all began to make sense! To me, this poem was phenomenal! Every characteristic added to its attempt to convey “Walt the Everything” as a foundation for those that came after him. Gannon captures Whitman in his own little epipheny of the objective of Whitman’s life and his works. In his quote, Whitman reminds those that shall live after him that life is a big circle and though he goes, he comes in another form, “from the grass [he] loves”. Whitman wanted to be the voice of the present, past and future. Speaking in terms of modernity and modernization, Whitman refuted an isolationist way of thinking for something more open-ended and accepting. I hope I’m not losing you… So here, I would assume that when Whitman speaks of growing from the grass that he loves, he’s talking about more than re-birth, the circle of life, nature and what not. He’s talking about becoming the foundation for future poets. He’s not growing with the grass, or through the grass, but from it which implies that he will be the product of seeds previously and continuously planted. And he tells other poets, “If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles”. Although Thomas Gannon makes it seem rather literal that he finds Whitman under his shoe, his satirical illustration simply reveals his epipheny of who Walt Whitman was and reminded him that with every step that he took, there was Walt “only wider”, for according to Whitman…I am large.
P.S. I would have loved to explicate this poem a little further, but for the sake of time and space I will leave you with this.