I'm wondering whether the right way to teach Whitman might not be a series of crazy marginal comments odder than the poem they comment on. Preferably these might be written by Wallace Stevens. Having recently taught a course on Emerson and Thoreau, Whitman is showing unusually brightly for me this time--I see what he's taken and what's new, and I'm getting an appreciation for how clever his method really is.
A Blue Cliff Whitman: Part I
The mirror of the book : The mirror of the stream.
The sky flickers among the riffling current.The water-bug looks through his own reflection.
A snippet and two commentaries:
Who goes there? hankering, gross, mystical, nude;How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat?
What is a man anyhow? what am I? what are you?
All I mark as my own you shall offset it with your own,Else it were time lost listening to me.
He asks who he is. But the one who can answer is no longer or not yet himself.
He reads with his stomach! How will we answer his questions? He crooks a finger of scent from a meal, like a bad cartoon. Follow your hunger to where he is.