Leaping Whitman

In the last section of Song of Myself, Whitman writes “I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, / I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.” He sees hurdles and he jumps them, no matter how incessant or redundant. He nearly defines himself in these lines as the leaping Whitman Rudolfo Anaya later calls him.

Untamed and wild, he is found in Anaya’s “Walt Whitman Strides the Llano of New Mexico”, in which Anaya has Whitman leaping all over the place. I like how the leaps progress through time and human advancements:

He moves from “Leap from the Manhattas! Leap over Brooklyn Bridge! Leap over slavery!” to “Leap over the violence! Madonna! Dead end rappers! Peter Jennings and ungodly nightly news!” Here Whitman becomes timeless, striding forth with a solution to even today’s menial “ungodly nightly news”.

Just as Anaya is tired of these things and calls on Whitman to leap and skip past them, Pablo Neruda is tired of himself and of his world in “Walking Around”:

“Comes a time I’m tired of being a man…. A whiff from the barber shops has me wailing.”

Everything becomes contrived; he wants “neither buildings nor gardens, no shopping centers, no bifocals, no elevators.” All these small miracles of ease that he lives among are grueling. Gardens no longer suffice as an excuse for nature; they too are arranged by humanity. The days burn him and are inescapable.

I like how both Neruda and Anaya move past the enormous hurdles of humanity which Whitman leaps over with a “barbaric yawp” and call on him for help with their own smaller, more compact hurdles. Peter Jennings and bifocals: these are the things imbedded in their everyday lives that get to these poets. And there are things this small and this daily that Whitman passed by as well in his day. It seems fitting that Anaya would call on him to carry him through these things, saying to Whitman “Leap into my arms”.

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One Response to Leaping Whitman

  1. AVZ says:

    Lovely post on leaping here — and I love that line about Peter Jennings!

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