William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Tag Archive for ‘Walt Whitman’

We Are Our Own Lens

In light of the sheer immensity of things, any endeavor, however well executed, is bound to seem trivial and small. We write poems, build bridges, send rockets to the moon; yet within this vast expanse, the page is small, the earth is small, the moon is small, the galaxy is small. How powerful, really, would a universal lens have to be to even show we are here? One partial answer […]

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The Poet Tree

To my mind, John Muir is a poet of the wilderness in the most divine literary sense — his praise and gratitude for the natural world is a song as sublime, inspirational, and wise as any sung by Homer or Whitman; in his hands, a journal entry seems the work of angels, here to recall man from the nightmare of his blind, narrow self. Muir is explorer, artist, scientist, dreamer, […]

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Letters, Journals, and Poems

This afternoon I finished reading the third volume of Thoreau’s journal — the third of fourteen, as published in 1906 by Houghton Mifflin and Company. And I am set to begin The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, after reading the introduction for the fourth or fifth time early this morning. As with Whitman, I continue my habit of reading aloud — except in the case of The Letters of Henry […]

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Long Island Line

In the form of his complete poetry and prose, Walt Whitman has been a daily companion of mine for the last three months. Today I opened and closed the uncommon-common book of his life for the last time — but not, if I am granted the necessary health and a similar span of years, for ever or for all time. Clearly, there is much about our time that would not […]

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My Father Walking, and Twenty-Four Other Things

It occurred to me recently that I walked more than a thousand miles in the immediate neighborhood during the past year, and several hundred more on state park trails — in terms of sheer distance, roughly halfway across the continent. This is hardly a profound realization. But though it was made in small increments, the journey itself was far from mundane. And a journey it remains. Another year and I […]

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Shadows on the Sidewalk

For sidewalk, Walt Whitman liked to use the word trottoir. Offhand, I can think of no other nineteenth century American writer who did so — this, of course, based on my faulty memory and limited reading. Word choice aside, one thing I’m noticing this time through his Specimen Days, is that buildings and trains are every bit as alive to him as oaks and sparrows — indeed, in his poetic […]

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Traces

Thoreau, off on a tramp, writing by moonlight. Whitman, bending a sapling to test his paralyzed strength. Bathing in ponds. Crow-voices. Wild flowers. Bumblebees. The nighttime parade of stars. The names of ferry-boat captains. Snow to the waist. Ice-cakes in the river. Big families. Poetry. Geology. Boot laces. Wild carrots. The end of the war. My hand on the knob. Your knock on the door. [ 606 ]

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Sunday’s Child

At long last I can say I have read Leaves of Grass — every word, in the poet’s final edition. I can also say that I have read each poem aloud, phrase by phrase, line by line, slowly, patiently, thoughtfully, carefully listening all the while. I had read Walt Whitman before. I had read his 1855 first edition, and many of his poems at random. And about fifteen years ago, […]

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Unnumbered Poem

After I finish reading the Library of America edition of Walt Whitman’s complete poems and prose, and when the wind dies down, I think I will turn to Emily Dickinson — 1960, Boston: Little, Brown. October 30, 2019   Unnumbered Poem If each act isn’t sacred, and each moment divine, tell me, then — who are you, and what do you do with your time? [ 558 ]

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Whispers

Dahlia leaves, intensely green after a thunderstorm. Ferns and moss, a fertile, humid prayer. Cleaning the iris bed — old, worn mothers with their fearless children. The scent of mushrooms soon to sprout. A friendly neighbor says a spirit haunts his house. Books — Walt Whitman and John Muir. Melville and Thoreau. And how strange Emerson, if he’d had a beard. September 12, 2019 [ 510 ]

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