Happy 200th Birthday, Walt Whitman
I’ll be honest with you: The first time I picked up Leaves of Grass (in college), it bored me to tears.
Maybe it’s a thing you have to grow into? I for sure skimmed the book to pass the class, but didn’t understand why so many people considered it a classic. It was definitely the most “traditional” choice for my literature class, which also included on the syllabus Ghost World and Sarah Kane. I couldn’t see then how truly revolutionary it was, how well it belonged there. Nah, I was just like, this is boring, self-absorbed free verse by an old, dead, white man. I couldn’t be bothered to care.
Walt Whitman re-entered my life in a strange way: through ice cream. When first moving to New York, my favorite local ice cream shop was the (then small) Ample Hills Creamery in Park Slope. Ample Hills — it’s a Whitman reference! And just like there are now Ample Hills franchises all over New York City, so too does it feel like Walt Whitman is everywhere for me now.
I forget who brought me to this poem, but I had it in an open tab for many weeks:
Keep your splendid silent sun;
Keep your woods, O Nature, and the quiet places by