“By listing, by naming, the atrocities-the harrowing stats, the scary particulars-in our world-at-endless-war, we might at least exert control over our sanity and extend our mind and compassion to others.”
This is description of Juliana Spahr’s This Connection of Everyone with Lungs written on the back of the book by Anne Waldman. This simple description fits the book of poems perfectly. Somewhere in this book Spahr manages to connect Whitman with herself, his style with hers. Whitman’s grand catalogues can be seen reflected throughout This Connection of Everyone with Lungs, adapted to Spahr’s needs.
Whitman’s catalogues, although incredibly lengthy at times, serve to equalize the people he is discussing. The catalogues place the poet with the philosopher with the worker with the government with the prostitute – all are equal here. Spahr uses her catalogues to imply something similar – in life and death, we are all equal. Her catalogues involve numbers of those arrested, numbers of those protesting, numbers of those killed in varying countries and cities all over the world.
“I speak of the forty seven dead in Caracas./ And I speak of the four dead in Palestine./ And of the three dead in Israel./ I speak of those dead in other parts of the world who go unreported.”
Just as Whitman did so many years before her, Spahr is equalizing us; no human death is more or less important than any other human death. In life, and in death, we are all equals. Any loss of life, whether it be a life of an American, or a Palestinian, or an Ethiopian, etc is a tragedy, an atrocity.
This idea of equality in life and in death brings us to the connection that we all have with one another, whether it be a positive or negative phenomenon, or perhaps both. But that’s a topic for another blog post.