Happy Belated Birthday Walt Whitman

Belated birthdays suck. They’re usually a way of showing that you care about somebody, just not enough to remember their birthday. As one of the multitudes whose lives have been changed over the last 195 years by Walt Whitman I want to wish it anyway.

I can tell you from personal experience that poetry is a dangerous business. I’ve only attempted it in the last couple of months and it’s already cost me dearly. Not that that should discourage anyone from trying. You might have better luck.

“These are the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they are not original with me,
If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing or next to nothing,
If they do not enclose everything they are next to nothing,
If they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle they are nothing,
If they are not just as close as they are distant they are nothing.”

Walt Whitman put his heart into his words and those words have tumbled down all these years, losing nothing in the journey.

“Because you are greasy or pimpled – or that you were once drunk, or a thief, or diseased, or rheumatic, or a prostitute – or are so now – or from frivolity or impotence – or that you are no scholar, and never saw your name in print….do you give in that you are any less immortal?”

Time plays cruel games with the human body and mind and soul. Some people resist or even occasionally win at these cruel games. Walt Whitman was one of the winners.

“Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun….there are millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand….nor through  the eyes of the dead….nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.”

I used a few of Walt Whitman’s words as the final lines of my new novel Lost and Found:

“Youth large lusty and loving….youth full of grace and force and fascination,
Do you know that old age may come after you with equal grace and force and fascination?”

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