|Walt Whitman Bridge|
The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me—he complains of my gab and my loitering.The excerpt is from Leaves of Grass by New Jersey's great Walt Whitman. (There's now a bridge named after him, so that's mostly what I knew him for when I was kid. Leaves of Grass was also the book Bill Clinton gave to Monica Lewinsky. Whitman's yawps sprawl in odd directions.)
I too am not a bit tamed—I too am untranslatable;
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
I admire works that can still seem odd years later, works that retain that 'x-factor' even after countless imitators have scraped their nails at the same chalk board. I speak often of things like rest and silence, but the most powerful moments of quiet are those that balance ecstatic creation, unforeseen energy and barbaric yawps.
The great works howl at us and linger there. They are not without rules, but they seem to follow their own. Like the most interesting heroes, they forge their own codes.
We'll scream in celebration at another's song or goal. We'll scream in anger at put-upons and tedium. Many will scream metronomically in the name of self-promotion. These are the sounds of the modern world, like car engines, cooking shows and construction. They're not without value, but the soul longs for more than spare change.
Yes, it's true that overwriting sinks many-a-book, but often this is more lazy revision than excessive ambition. Yes, we sometimes grab for a world-too-large that topples from our feeble fingers. There are corpses of all kinds in the wars of art, commerce and creation.
So in a burst of Sunday enthusiasm, I'll say: 'Let them hear that barbaric yawp.' They may still shoot you in the gut, they may still mock you in the halls, they may still taunt you on the web, but the world is a big place and there's always another roof to shout over. It would be nice if the self-promoters had more of a self to promote.
That's my yawping for the day. Not quite barbaric, no. But that has to be worked towards.
Any Whitman fans out there? Is he another one ruined by assigned reading? (I don't think he was ever assigned to me, or if he was I didn't really pay attention and don't remember it.)