After reading “I’m nobody! Who are you?” by Emily Dickinson, I was saddened by how much I understood her words. When I was younger I was painfully shy. The more my family made me crawl out of my shell, the more I recoiled into my shell. I have since grown out of that, in order to survive. I imagine that Emily was a shy young girl who had a friend that was equally shy as Emily. When she asks “Are you nobody, too?”, it made me feel like she was thrilled to meet another likeminded person. So, if Emily’s family was like my family, then perhaps being shy was not a desirable trait. Then she says “don’t tell”, as if it is their secret that they are socially different. I can’t tell in the poem if Emily likes to be isolated, or if she dreams of being free from her shyness.
I chose “Song of Myself, 50” by Walt Whitman to respond to. As a Christian, I immediately connected to this poem. The beginning line of “I asked no other thing, There is that in me… I do not know what it is… but I know it is in me”, reminded me of God’s promise to always be with us and to never fear. What I love about Whitman’s words, is that he didn’t once speak of religion, but the undertones of Christianity are there. He explains that feeling of eternal love from the Lord as “I do not know what it is”. I think that is genius, because do we truly know what it is? Each person’s interpretation of God’s presence is completely different from the next persons. Whitman goes onto say “it is without name… it is a word unsaid, It is not in any dictionary or utterance of symbol.” Again, I believe some experiences do not have an earthly description or symbol. As a nurse I have had a few patients that could speak right before they died. Some of them had a faraway look in their eye, staring into space. Others would point while staring at nothing. But they saw something I couldn’t. One in particular said “do you seem them? They are dancing!” Whitman says, “Do you see O my brothers and sisters?”, I believe at the time of his death.
Part II: Find another internet resource ( this might be a text-based website or a Youtube video or a journal article)that provides some additional insight or helps you understand any of this week’s poems. Share the link and describe what the resource is and how it helped you.An article by Herbert Levine in the Modern Language Quarterly, circa 1987, was limited to what I could read but helpful. The name of the article was “Song of Myself as Whitman’s American Bible”. Levine writes “While he was working toward a third edition of Leaves of Grass, during June 1857, Whitman wrote himself a note that is often quoted but rarely used as a guide to reading his poetry: the Great Construction of the New Bible”. The article goes on to say that Whitman’s ambition is to provide a religious foundation for American democracy on a biblical basis. One hundred and sixty years later, his words are still resonating. What little I could read from the article helped me to understand the writer a bit more from a spiritual viewpoint. Whitman’s simplistic word choice have heavy Christian undertones. Below is the hyperlink to the article.
Part III: What lines from “Song of Myself” describe, in your view, something important or unique about American identity? Copy and paste the lines here and then discuss your reason for selecting them in a paragraph.
The line “Something it swings on more than the earth I swing on, To it the creation is the friend whose embracing awakes me”, describes Americans and their quest for more/purpose. I think that no matter what we believe in we can all come to agree that there is more to this life that what we see with our eyes. Whitman says “something it swings on more than the earth I swing on”. I think that he means that there is more out there than we know. I think that Americans can identify with having a greater purpose than the moment that they are in. Whatever that purpose is, Whitman says “to it the creation is the friend whose embracing awakes me”. Finding a deeper meaning in life and having your aha moment, may feel like a friend hugging you. I think that what is unique about American identity, is that we are all reaching for something more