Sandra Rose Maley, Guest Editor
Introduction to the Winter 2004 Issue
(Volume 6, Number 1)
THE WHITMAN ISSUE
Co-Sponsored with the Washington Friends of Walt Whitman
Part of the City-wide festival, "DC Celebrates Whitman: 150 Years of Leaves of Grass"
Great is life . . and real and mystical.
After reading Leaves of Grass, Ralph Waldo
Emerson wrote to Walt Whitman: “"Dear Sir, I am not blind
to the worth of the wonderful gift of 'Leaves of Grass.' I find it the
most extraordinary piece of wit & wisdom that American has yet contributed."
Beltway Poetry Quarterly and the Washington Friends of Walt
Whitman are not blind to the importance of this year's 150th anniversary
of that “"wonderful gift”" and join together in
this special issue of Beltway to commemorate the first edition
of Leaves of Grass (1855).
Whitman set himself up as the representative poet for the
new nation in that first edition, for which he and the Rome Brothers
set the type and chose the frontispiece, the “"carpenter
portrait" of the young Whitman, dressed casually—set apart
from the dignified poetic establishment in America, comfortable walking
among the people and speaking for them, as part of them:
I CELEBRATE myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as
good belongs to you.
In his preface Whitman asserted that the “"genius of the
United States is not best or most in its executives or legislatures,
nor in its ambassadors or authors or colleges or churches or parlors,
nor even in its newspapers or inventors . . . but always most in the
Whitman's long preface, the "great psalm to the
republic," though often neglected, is a trumpet call for a new
poetry for the fledgling nation that had not yet celebrated its fourscore
years nor yet suffered the four-year rupture that brought Whitman to
Washington, DC. So, like that first edition that brought forth many
blossoms, the poems in this special issue are dedicated to that first
* * *
In this issue, we present the poems of 38 poets, all
living and writing in the Washington Metropolitan area, stretching out
to include Delaware and West Virginia, whose varied work echoes and
answers Whitman's challenge to the poets who would follow him. He prodded
in “"Poets to Come": “"Arouse! for you must
justify me." The poems in this issue do justify and honor Whitman,
in answer to Beltway's call for Whitman-inspired poems, poems
in imitation, in honor, in high seriousness, and in fun.
We divided the poems into seven sections, each representing
some aspect of Whitman's legacy, and their range is evidence of Whitman's
still sounding echoes in today's poets and poetry, from Jean
Johnson's vivid portrait of Whitman visiting the wounded
soldiers in the old Patent Office building and David
Bergman's depiction of Whitman first meeting Peter Doyle
on a D.C. trolley during the Civil War to Daniel
Pravda's image of Whitman buying coffee at a modern fast-food
establishment and John
Clarke's whimsical wedding feast for Walt Whitman and Emily
In the last sentence of his Preface to that first edition
Whitman wrote: “"The proof of a poet is that his country
absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it." These poems
offer that proof and our affection.
Who knows but I am enjoying this?
Who knows for all the distance,
but I am as good as looking at you now,
for all you cannot see me?
* * *
We thank Kim Roberts, editor of Beltway for
proposing and overseeing this commemorative issue to complement the
Spring's upcoming events to mark the sesquicentennial publication of
Whitman's first edition of Leaves of Grass. Acknowledgment
is also due Martin Murray, Whitman scholar and President of the Washington
Friends of Walt Whitman, for his continued dedication to Whitman's life
and work, who even now is petitioning to have a street near the Portrait
Gallery where Whitman worked re-named Walt Whitman Way. And, finally,
thanks to Michael Degman for his insightful comments, suggestions, and
plain hard work as editorial assistant for this issue.
Saundra Rose Maley, Guest Editor
To read some of Saundra Rose Maley's poems, click here.
To read a review of The Whitman Issue in the Washington
Post, click here.
To read about "DC Celebrates Whitman: 150
Years of Leaves of Grass," the 2005 city-wide festival
of which this issue was a part, click here.
by Saundra Rose Maley
I. Horehound Drops to the Boy from Iowa
H. Johnson: "Walt Whitman Visits the Civil War Hospital in
the Patent Office (now the National Portrait Gallery)"
"To Be in New York"
Robert L. Giron:
II. Walt pulls the PUSH door
Pravda: "Poem Written in Barbeque Sauce"
"Walt & Em Wed"
Linda Joy Burke:
"Of Thee I Sing III—America You Deserve"
Nan Fry: "Yoga"
"Prayer of the Ashamed American"
III. The Romance of America Demands the Story
Rocky Delaplaine: "Last Prayer"
"Georgetown, D.C.: The Aqueduct Bridge"
"In Praise of the Natural Flowing"
Moore: "Dead Boy in the Road at Fredericksburg"
"The Immigrant Museum"
"The Peter Doyle Poems"
IV. The Song is the Wind
Poliner: "Thinking About the Six Back
Sonatas for Flute and Piano While Vacationing in Maine"
"When Sleep is About to Overtake Me"
"When Lilacs Last..."
"Poem Found in the Graffiti on a Freight Train's Cars"
V. Wildness Breaking In
Ruark: "The Deer Longing"
"Wildness Breaking In"
"Viewing the Relics"
VI. Skin All Around
McAleavey: "Invention of the Sonnet"
"At a Rest Stop in Iowa"
"Song of the River"
"My Mother's Whitman"
"To a Young Astronomer: After Reading Whitman"
"Cleaning 328 Mickle Street"
To read more by this author:
Saundra Rose Maley: The
Maley: Tenth Anniversary Issue