Friday, October 30, 2015

I just got word from Deerbrook Editions that my forthcoming essay collection, The Vagabond's Bookshelf, has gone into production. These essays about rereading have existed for so many years as an Unpublishable Manuscript that the idea of finally seeing them in print is startling--as if I'll be trying to sell a past version of my life as a brand-new product. On the other hand, hurray for old books, even if one of them is mine.

Meanwhile, Chestnut Ridge, my other Unpublishable Manuscript, is lurking in the bowels of several publishers' computers. I wonder what will ever happen to it.


I sit at my desk now and wonder how to end this book. Who, of all the writers on my shelves, requires the last word? I lean back in my chair and look up, and there stands Walt Whitman, leaning against his doorway, waiting for me . . . dear striding, loud-mouthed Walt, who soaks up the world like ink—its stories and music halls, its farms and harbors, its sermons and whispers and shouts: who fearlessly turns the world into the palette of himself. And Walt does have something to say to me, and to you, as I should have known he would:
I doubt it not—then more, far more;
In each old song bequeath’d—in every noble page or text,
(Different—something unreck’d before—some unsuspected author,)
In every object, mountain, tree, and star—in every birth and life,
As part of each—evolv’d from each—meaning, behind the ostent,
A mystic cipher waits infolded.

[from The Vagabond's Book: A Reader's Memoir (Deerbrook Editions, 2016)]


Carlene said...

ahh Walt.

I found myself devoting three full days of class time this week, just rolling around in language, using Song of Myself as the text. What a great conversation began in my class! Students who rarely have a cogent point: "Wait, this guy...he sounds like Thoreau." And others, who rarely trust poetry: "So, Emerson's stuff...this guy, he 'gets it' and lives it, right?"

As I get older, I fall more and more in love with Whitman and his glorying in language. He bends it, makes it flex and sweat, expands it to make room for all of us.

Dawn Potter said...

Great comments from your students . . . but, then, they have a terrific teacher, don't they?--one who lets them "roll around in language." Carlene, you are the best!