The Gossip of Flames: Becoming Opposite Equals in Whitman’s “Song of Myself”

Out of the dimness opposite equals advance . . . . Always substance and increase, always sex,
Always a knit of identity . . . . always distinction . . . always a breed of life.
[3]

In today’s lecture, I am going to address two seemingly simple questions:

1. How does Whitman’s poetry work in “Song of Myself”?

2. What does Whitman’s poetry mean in “Song of Myself”?

I believe that the answer to the first question, how does it work, is crucial to understanding the answer to the second question, what does it mean, perhaps as much as for any poet before or after Whitman. As we have progressed more than halfway through “Song of Myself”, we have all noticed that Whitman does not shy away from incorporating big questions, about good and evil, life and death, sexual ecstasy and brutal violence.

Continue reading The Gossip of Flames: Becoming Opposite Equals in Whitman’s “Song of Myself”

Walt Whitman, “Election Day, November, 1884”

Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross:

—Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the heart pants, life glows

This poem is one of the first things I ever posted here, about four years ago today. It’s hard to agree with Whitman, that the heart of the day is not in the chosen, but in the choosing. 

It is hard to agree, though like all hard things that does not mean the poet is wrong. 

Walt Whitman, “Election Day, November, 1884”