Saturday, January 3, 2009

Whitman's Advice to Poets


This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one who asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body..... The poet shall not spend his time in unneeded work. He shall know that the ground is always ready ploughed and manured.....others may not know it but he shall. He shall go directly to the creation. His trust shall master the trust of everything he touches.... and shall master all attachment.

—Walt Whitman
1855 Preface to Leaves of Grass

2 comments:

Katherine said...

...and not just poets, I think. Lovely words, Dan. Thanks.

Mr. KinderG said...

Yes, not just poets. These are good words for all of us. On the other hand, trying to make beautiful things be they poems, paintings, piano sonatas, or photographs (as you do, Katherine) is so worthy!

What a wonderful world if everyone aspired to write a poem on a regular basis!