This thoughtful guest blog comes to us from Michael Greene, citizen of New Orleans. He and I have known each other for decades and debated more issues than I can name.
“I spent the morning thinking about a passage in Henry Miller’s short book “The Time of the Assassins” where he writes that the Surrealists poets Lautreamont, Breton, Rimbaud and Nietzsche are screaming at us, in Miller’s view, about the coming century and the cataclysm that will accompany it. In Miller’s opinion, and I’ll be the first one to say he is always writing about himself before any other subject, these poets were terrified by the vision of the life they viewed through their poetic lenses. Of course, Miller states, no one paid any attention to them then and there is no reason to think even with the evidence at hand anyone would pay attention to them now.
Suddenly, I’m reminded of a day when the Gulf of Mexico was on fire as a result of the BP rig explosion and it took me twenty minutes to cross St. Charles Avenue on foot because the seemingly endless stream of automobiles, each with one human in it, would not stop for me. I considered shaking my fist at the cars and their drivers, but in New Orleans no one would notice an old man going crazy on the curb. I think I came to the hard conclusion that day there wasn’t any point in my trying to understand the world I lived in. However, I still fall for the notion that there might be some poet out there speaking about the big picture, so to speak, in a way I can understand it.
Anyway, I check around the Internet for the “Occupy Poetry” and ran across this one. What am I to make of it? I don’t want to fall in one of her “holes” and there aren’t any “Democratic Vistas” in the poem unless I count some pots and pans being thrown around the room. The business about the poor factory workers jumping from the roofs in China because of the lousy deal they get supplying iPhones to the Empire? Well, I get that all, too. I’m nations sorry about it; things are hard all over from what I can see these days.
I want to know what happened to my Walt Whitman? Do you know where he is? Is Walt now an old man gone crazy on the curb?”
Oh, Michael, don’t despair. Walt is still grandfather to us all. Look at the style of “dis-orient” and you’ll see him peeking out of the wrath. There’s the difference, I guess. She’s pissed and he was in love with this teeming world. I think we need both. If we didn’t love Boston, we wouldn’t be so angry and cry when someone blows up a holiday.