Revolution, Recitation, and Reconciliation

This is the beginning of my paper as it stands, though some things may obviously be subject to change in revision. Perhaps I’ll offer more posts as it becomes more fully formed. Despite the confusion, it is fun to write about!

The Walt Whitman most Americans are familiar with is one of boundless optimism, a deep appreciation and love of nature, and, above all else, an undeniably strong sense of hope. Indeed, the multitudes are most familiar with the Whitman who attempts to contain and celebrated them all simultaneously. Who can blame them though? Who would prefer a Whitman suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, confused and disillusioned by men’s violence towards one another, and one who seems to be grasping at straws rather than one who feels firmly planted on the mountaintop, prophetic pamphlet in hand? This more serious, more restrained, and more honest Whitman is the one we find in the pages of Democratic Vistas and Drum-Taps. Though he certainly still believes something fundamentally positive about America and its people, he cannot ignore all the suffering that’s transpired during the Civil War. It is this politically charged and partially helpless Whitman who seems to have inspired so many poets around the world to use their voices in times of real crisis. Among them, the Hispanic and Latin American poets are perhaps the most well known: Federico Garcia Lorca, Pablo Neruda, and later, Martin Espada. These men pay homage to Whitman for his love of nature, peace, and liberty through their work, and have received wide recognition both in the literary spheres as well as the political. This paper will briefly establish Whitman’s political point of view by analyzing Democratic Vistas before moving on to one of his more poignant poems from Drum-Taps, “Reconciliation.” After a close reading of this piece we will then begin to examine the other poets’ contributions as they strove to aid their respective countries and take up Whitman’s cup where he left off. We will examine Garcia Lorca’s “Gacela of the Dead Child,” Neruda’s “I Explain Some Things,” and Espada’s “Rain Without Rain—“ in comparison to Whitman’s piece.

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