Sad; Sweet; Whitman

David Bartone
November 6, 2009
Comments 2

The saddest thing happened to me today. God dammit, Merrill. I bought Merrill Gilfillan’s Magpie Rising: Sketches from the Great Plains online (shame, shame me; for the used purchase part) and incoming from the South Dakota State Library (shame, shame South Dakota State Library) it came. Now, I first read this book“no wait, I hadn’t read it before today (shame, shame me, again). (Me, 2; SDSL, 1.)

Wait, I’m getting lost. What’s so sad?

gilfillan_magpie_cover_175w

Okay, so nothing is quite sad.

The author’s note at the beginning of this book–which, yes, so happy to have read today; a blue, cold, windy November day; vying for last nice day of the year, perhaps–boy, am I reinvigorated in a pursuit of America like nothing like Whitman can do. Sing your note, Merrill:

These sketches were written between 1983 and 1986, modest fruits of the quick-cut, the blow-through, the right rear window. After some 50,000 miles out there, there are glimpses of a loosely knotted part-time Life Work, even. What began as simple wonder and continental curiosity ends up a sort of poetic maintenance.

***

The sweetest thing happened to me today. I was thinking about Basho while reading Jay’s post about Basho.

***

Can I tell you my favorite Walt Whitman lines? Can they be from Calamus today? Can they be of death, a poetic maintenance we all ought and sometimes do“?

I will say what I have to say by itself,

I will sound myself and comrades only, I will never again utter a call only their call,

I will raise with it immortal reverberations through the States,

I will give an example to lovers to take permanent shape and will through the States,

Through me shall the words be said to make death exhilarating,

Give me your tone therefore O death, that I may accord with it,

Give me yourself, for I see that you belong to me now above all and are folded inseparably together, you love and death are,

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