Walt Whitman :: The Simpsons :: Necropastoral / Necrocoastal / Necrogeorgic

In a recent comment, John Domini remarked how Kafka is “a major marketing tool” in Prague (Kafka beer steins, Kafka underwear, etc.), which reminded me, in a U.S. context, of how Levi’s exploitatively enlisted Walt Whitman’s poem “O Pioneers” for their 2009 “Go Forth” ad campaign. The commercial is a laughably bad example of corporate propaganda that turns Whitmanian address into capitalist interpellation (I remember the commercial was loudly booed when it was shown before a screening of Pedro Almodóvar’s Broken Embraces).

In an apparently non-ironic comment, YouTube user sapporo1992 says, “i seriously get so inspired when i see this. haha and i do kinda live a life like that full of adventure maybe thats why i relate to it so much…and i love walt whitman’s poetry.”

In contrast to the “inspiring” and “adventurous” Whitman (this is the Whitman of “Song of the Open Road”), the recent The Simpson’s episode “The Squirt and the Whale” (episode 460) presents us with the “comforting” and “compassionate” Whitman (this is the Whitman of “Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night”).  In the episode, Lisa comforts a beached blue whale (she names her “Bluella”) by reading her a passage from Leaves of Grass.  She says to the whale, “When I’m sad I read something beautiful and true: poetry” and then reads aloud the first three lines of “The World below the Brine” (“The world below the brine; / Forests at the bottom of the sea—the branches and leaves, / Sea-lettuce, vast lichens…”) before falling asleep beside the beast. When she awakes, she finds that Bluella is dead.

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Anatomy of a Poem: D.A. Powell

D.A. Powell’s fourth book of poetry Chronic (Graywolf, 2009) received the Kingsley Tufts Award and was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. The following poem is the last in the book. Interview follows. (the poem is a sonnet, the fourteen lines are unbroken, but formatting would not allow this)

corydon & alexis, redux

and yet we think that song outlasts us all:  wrecked devotion
the wept face of desire, a kind of savage caring that reseeds itself and grows in clusters

oh, you who are young, consider how quickly the body deranges itself
how time, the cruel banker, forecloses us to snowdrifts white as god’s own ribs

what else but to linger in the slight shade of those sapling branches
yearning for that vernal beau.   for don’t birds covet the seeds of the honey locust
and doesn’t the ewe have a nose for wet filaree and slender oats foraged in the meadow
kit foxes crave the blacktailed hare:  how this longing grabs me by the nape

guess I figured to be done with desire, if I could write it out
dispense with any evidence, the way one burns a pile of twigs and brush

what was his name? I’d ask myself, that guy with the sideburns and charming smile
the one I hoped that, as from a sip of hemlock, I’d expire with him on my tongue

silly poet, silly man:  thought I could master nature like a misguided preacher
as if banishing love is a fix.   as if the stars go out when we shut our sleepy eyes

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Dmitri Nabokov 1, Dying Wish 0

Vladimir Nabokov made his wife promise to burn his unfinished last novel, The Original of Laura, upon his death. But the manuscript, written on 138 index cards, remained in a Swiss safe-deposit box for over three decades. His son and sole heir, Dmitri, 75, has finally decided to let the world have a look. Knopf will publish The Original of Laura on November 17.

Dmitri and Vladimir
Dmitri and Vladimir

Other writers’ deathbed requests & their upshots…

Virgil:  Burn the Aeneid. (Emperor Augustus refused.)
Charles Dickens:  Remember me by my work alone; no statues or monuments. (Not the humblest cove in Britain.)
Emily Dickinson:  Burn all my papers. (Her sister, Vinnie, destroyed her letters but not her poems.)
Franz Kafka:  Burn all my unpublished works. (His friend Max Brod did not comply.)
Hunter S. Thompson:  Fire my ashes from a giant cannon. (Johnny Depp lit the match.)