Connect a Specific Line from Whitman’s Poetry to a Specific Scene in This Documentary

The technology staff in the Crowsnest is still trying to find out why PBS took the great episode of Whitman off of their American Experience website.

Moving forward, let’s have everyone view and absorb these three great segments below. Then, as you are reading and rereading our 19th century national bard, connect an exact moment in one of these films with a line from Whitman’s poetry. How does the film enlighten or enlarge your understanding of this specific line? What insight do you find in this specific line? How does this line relate to some larger theme, trend or motif in Whitman’s poetry? Please cite our Norton page number of your edition and the line so we can all easily access your line and appreciate your insight. Compose 5-6 sentences of Standard English.

About Bill Sullivan

I am an English teacher working with great students at Suffield Academy. I also teach seniors in various project-based learning environments. Some of the #PBL topics included global issues, such as Pandemics, Climate Change, and Water; more recently I have asked students to research and identify topics important to our school community and their generation. We curate these topics with a #StudentCenteredPBL. For the past eleven years, I also created a driving question for a class to research a local history mystery and present their findings in a community program partnering with our local historical society. These topics encompass researching the lives of enslaved individuals who were contributors to the foundation of our community.
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14 Responses to Connect a Specific Line from Whitman’s Poetry to a Specific Scene in This Documentary

  1. A says:

    In “Leaves of Grass”, Whitman writes, “The prostitute draggles her shawl, her bonnet bobs on her tipsy and pimpled neck, /The crowd laugh at her blackguard oaths, the men jeer and wink to each other, /(Miserable! I do not laugh at your oaths nor jeer you;)”. Ed Folsom, a scholar featured in the documentary discuses the photo Whitman puts in the beginning of his book. He explains how this somewhat dingy and unusual picture displays “poetry that comes from a life of walking in the streets. It’s the poetry that emerges through the hands and arms and through the heart pumping blood to all parts of the body”. This explanation of Whitman’s photo helps to enhance the meaning of the lines of poetry concerning the prostitute in “Leaves of Grass”. This part of the poem, and the description of Folson helps to enhance Whitman’s quality of normalcy. He was not a wealthy educated poet, but instead one who often took ideas from normal life. The subject of the prostitute also contributes to the idea that Whitman had no boundaries, and was not afraid to mention topics like this one. The quote emphasizes his lack of regard for the norms of poetry, and the highlighting of common occurrences witnessed by living not as a nobleman but as a lower class poet, which was a large and significant theme in Whitman’s poetry.

  2. K.Dotes. says:

    In “Leaves of Grass”, Whitman writes, “I believe in the flesh and the appetites,/ Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each part and tag of me is a miracle (2227, Whitman 522-523). Poet Yusef Komunyakaa says that “that the human body is what we all share, we all experience this world through the body and if we can all begin to agree that the body is a sacred thing, then we have the beginnings of democracy.” I believe that this quote is saying that all men have the same basic thing, a body. Whitman believes that the things we feel are amazing and that each person (mainly himself) is a miracle. This relates to Whitman’s ideas that all men are equal, but he uses himself as an example, since the poems are mostly about him. This also helps enhance the “I” voice that Whitman uses throughout his poem.

  3. Madrakula says:

    In “Leaves of Grass”, one of Whitman’s lines says, “Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?/I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it” (Page 1334, Lines 131-132). The scholar Ed Folsom discusses Whitman’s first use of the “I” in his poems. He explains, “In that moment where he writes “I am”, I can feel the moment where Whitman senses that “I” that is going to become the main character in all of his poems. That “I” has come into existence”. Whitman’s line saying that “I hasten to inform him” and “I know it” helps enhance Folsom’s explanation as to the main character in Whitman’s works. This “I” is a repeated theme used throughout Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” and other works and is very well portrayed in this quote.

  4. ohs123 says:

    In the first part of the documentary, Ed Folsom discusses how Walt Whitman is unlike other poets and he shows this with his portrait in “Leaves of Grass”. His picture is not “from the shoulders up dressed in formal dress which emphasizes the poetry of the intellect, the poetry that comes from a life of privilege and education. Instead this is poetry that comes from a life of walking in the streets, it’s the poetry that emerges through the hands and arms and through the heart pumping blood to all parts of the body”. Whitman showcases this difference in “Leaves of Grass” when he writes “My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,/ Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents before the same”. Whitman is grounding himself to a life connected with the earth, and emphasizes how his body and soul are integral parts of his existence and verse just like Folsom notes. Whitman uses his “hands” and “arms” and “heart pumping blood” as inspiration to write his poetry, and connects himself further to his bloodline with his “parents born here from parents the same”.

  5. hnewman9 says:

    In “Leaves of Grass”, Whitman writes, “A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;/ How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than/ he” (1332). Whitman is writing that he does not feel that he is better than the common person, or even a child, rather he feels that everyone is equal. The part in the video that relates to this theme in his writing is when scholar Ed Folsom shows a picture of the original cover of “Leaves of Grass” and it shows Whitman in common street clothes instead of the normally distinguished clothes that most poets used for their head shots. This again shows how Whitman is trying to depict himself as a man of the people and that he is not better than anyone, rather that everyone is equal. The line and the cover show how Whitman does not even see himself as better than a child. The line shows that Whitman felt that since neither one knew exactly what grass was that they were both equal. While the cover shows Whitman in an average way as to make him seem like more of a common man writing poetry, rather than a distinguished man born to write poems.

  6. Niklas says:

    In “Song of Myself”, Whitman writes, “I celebrate myself, and sing myself”(page 24; line 1; Song of Myself). Whiteman describes himself and how he feels about himself in Song of Myself and by being the very beginning of the poem, this quote already shows the reader what to expect. Although Whiteman didn’t even write his name on the cover page of leave storm, he celebrates himself a lot in the poem. This perfectly relates to the “I”, Ed Folsom talks about, the “I” being the future main character of Whiteman’s works. Furthermore, Whiteman was a poet whose ideas and words didn’t come from wealth, but from his heart and his experiences. Through being this kind of poet, the way he displays himself is even more influencing and might give some motivational thoughts to the readers.

  7. Catty says:

    In “Leaves of Grass”, Whitman writes, “It is not intellect that is to be their warrant and welcome. The talented, the artist, the ingenious, the editor, the statesman, the erudite.. they are not unappreciated.. they fall in their place and do their work. The soul of the nation also does its work.” This can be directly related to what Scholar Ed Folsom says in the first video in regards to Whitman’s personal writers notebook. Folsom says, “Whitman is looking for his voice” and explains, “He wrote ‘I am the poet of slaves and of the masters of slaves, I am the poet of body and I am'”…”‘I am the poet of the body of the soul'”. Whitman is equating intellect, talent, and country to who he is as a poet, and who people in this time period are in general. Folsom explains why Whitman had difficulty with finding his voice as a poet, and then as he writes “I am”… he crosses it out and struggles to find the correct words to explain who he is. These two passages relate to each other because of their similar tone and message.

  8. Ally says:

    In Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” death is a reoccurring theme. This may be because Whitman was surrounded by death during the Civil War. Death is so prevalent in Whitman’s life that in the video it says that he made “over six hundred visits to more than one thousand patients.” In the video, Whitman is quoted saying “I’ve spent a long time with Oscar F. Wilbur… He talked of death and said he did not fear it.” The video goes on to show many pictures of wounded soldiers during the Civil War. These specific scenes from the video relate to the following quote from “Leaves of Grass”: “And to you Death, and you bitter hug of mortality, it is idle to try to alarm me”(1372). With this line, Whitman is stating that he, like Wilbur, does not fear death. This quotation is easily understood once watching the video abundant with scenes of soldiers slowly receiving their bitter hugs of mortality.

  9. 16htt says:

    In “Leaves of Grass”, Whitman states “I am satisfied- I see, dance, laugh, sing;/ As the hugging and loving bed fellow sleeps at my side through the night,” (Page 1332, Lines 58-59) which refers to the point made in this document. The scholar in an extract of the document specified that there is a connection between the human body and democracy; the fact that we experience with our body on our habitual actions, our feelings, sight and voice demonstrates an aspect of what we, humans, all have in common. Whitman wanted to portray his interpretation over the concepts of an individual by writing what he sees, hears and feels in this world through the utilization of his body. Therefore, the document points out that a democracy can only be created or commenced by the acceptance that the human body is a ‘sacred’ and valued element. Moreover, this is also proven in Whitman’s self-portrait of his poetry book, where he was not wearing a formal outfit and had a full view of his body in the portrait. The picture connotes poetry that emerged from himself as a poet, along with his experiences and perspectives- the body itself.

  10. jg says:

    The image of Whitman is “unlike any other poets before, the poets from the shoulders up, dressed in formal dress, which emphasizes the poetry comes from the intellect, the poetry that comes from the life of privilege and education. Instead, this is poetry comes from the walking of the streets. This information from the documentary suggests that Whitman is a down-to-earth, ordinary and realistic poet. In “Song of myself”, It is realistic when Whitman suggests that “You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the specters 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 your self.”(1331) Here he is saying that books cannot teach you everything, instead you must discover things by yourself and learn from experience.

  11. H says:

    In “Song of Myself”, Whitman writes, “I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning and the end, But I do not talk of the beginning or the end. There was never any more inception than there is now, Nor any more youth or age than there is now, And will never be any more perfection than there is now, Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now” (Lines 38-48) Though this may be a long piece to pull from the greatness of Whitman’s work, this is certainly crucial to the view of Whitman’s way of living, and the ideal properties of life executed by everyday men and women in the times of Uncle Walt, and years of generations to come. Whitman enlightened the reader to open up to one of the most crucial ways of living life for all mankind. Whether you choose to be the unstoppable force or the immovable object, live for today and live for now. In video number 3, the narrator speaks of Whitman crying at the sight of the wounded soldiers in the civil war. The narrator describes how the sight of such agony and despair brings Whitman to tears. But then the narrator reads in the words of Whitman, “I had the luck yesterday however, to do some good.” Through his tears Whitman could see light. He could make out the essence of a chance to do good, and chose not to live in the past where these terrible things happened, but to move forward to a more golden future where he could help. Live for the now. You can be Ying, or you can be Yang, but do so with such greatness that you leave your mark.

  12. KJ says:

    In “Leaves of Grass” Walt Whitman writes, “I am the poet of the woman the same as the man, / And I say it is great to be a woman as to be a man” (page 1344, lines 425-426). The powerful emotion created by this line connects to the section of the video about the body and equality. Whitman wants his readers to be unified by the idea that the body is something every human shares in common. In part two of the video a scholar conveys Whitman’s idea that people should coalesce based upon this idea that everyone experiences every aspect of life through the body and its functions. Whitman believes that all bodies are sacred no matter what color or gender they are and the acceptance of the sacred aspect of the body is crucial to the development of Democracy. These ideas were very important Whitman, which is why they show up in “Leaves of Grass” and the documentary.

  13. bsullivan35 says:

    I am amazed how Whitman connected with a poet’s genius to the significance of Lincoln’s work at the height of the Civil War’s uncertainty. Interesting, too, how we now have a new, beautiful definition of “Ugly American” from this context. I also appreciate how some student comments incorporated quotations from scholars, such as Ed Folsom. I continue to appreciate Folsom’s use of his term, “urban affection,” which celebrates the influence of Whitman’s past job as a reporter and its impact on the large persona (American bard) he creates in his poetry. Whether he captures the sublime shrill of a bird-like opera singer or the rough sounds from the Five Points neighborhood, all sounds pulsate through this American poetry. Great work, my friends!

  14. 16msd says:

    At the end of the second video we see how Whitman was amused by critics of his poetry. He did not write it for the critics, but for the everyday people. This is especially clear in the lines, “This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural hunger,/ It is for the wicked just the same as the righteous, I make appointments with all,/ I will not have a single person slighted or left away,/ The kept-woman, sponger, thief, are hereby invited (1342, 23-28)”. The video shows us what exact Whitman was trying to get at with these lines saying, “Whitman had an incredible belief in ordinary people to understand his work”. This makes it clear that Whitman saw ordinary people more important than he saw any critic.

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