W is for Whitman

| February 18, 2014

As I was thinking about aesthetic experiences this week I was reminded of this Walt Whitman poem called Poets to Come. The poem, being that it’s a poem, is in itself art but it is also addressing the nature of art. It brings up the notion that the artist is only really half the story. The other half, or maybe more then half, lies within us, you, me, everyone who experiences the art.

The first time I was exposed to this poem was during a guest lecture in a class at TC. A teacher came in and before doing anything else proceeded to do what he does at the very beginning of every one of his first classes; which is to just read this poem aloud. I thought it was incredible because the very first thing he’s doing is inviting the class to become more conscious of all the aestheticism that’s around them and bring it into the classroom. At the same time he’s giving them an aesthetic experience right there by reading the poem.

Poets to Come

Poets to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!
Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for,
But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than
before known,
Arouse! for you must justify me.

I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future,
I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the darkness.

I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping, turns a
casual look upon you and then averts his face,
Leaving it to you to prove and define it,
Expecting the main things from you.