It’s appropriate to write another Walt Whitman piece this month since May 31 will be the 197th anniversary of his birth. Bruce Noll is a poet, writer, professor, and friend who performs PURE GRASS, a dramatic program he composed using excerpts entirely from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Bruce intertwines many of Whitman’s themes in his performances, such as the life cycle of nature, everyday life, everyday people, and praise of the individual as worthy subjects for poetry. I mention Bruce Noll since he brings Whitman and Whitman’s poetry to life. When I saw Bruce perform PURE GRASS, I fell in love with Whitman’s work.
I’ll include a poem I wrote about “bards of the past” like Ginsberg and Whitman, who never “foresaw generations living (on computer or mobile phone) keyboards.”
Ginsberg Now by Kathryn Lane (Austin International Poetry Festival Anthology-Apr 2014)
digital consumers, impatient for action,
chasing whims, seeking novelty – mood
changers – a new wave of shoppers, geeks
with brains in overdrive, streaming
internet at lightning speed, fingers
Twittering, Facebooking and Linking-In
to extend networks of one-way para-social
relationships, intimacy at a distance, eviscerating
conversation and personal touch so common
in one-on-one companionship.
Where did the flower child go? That universal
brotherhood, whose hypnotic trance, exalted
to a pinnacle of love and peace, and others
who altered the establishment, like Ginsberg, who
read Howl to electrified audiences on how he saw
“the best minds of my generation destroyed”
by consumerism. Ginsberg might go beyond
swearing, hallucinating, experimenting with drugs
to stop and confront the new establishment
of men and women seeking fulfillment in an action
world, a techno world where Walt Whitman,
worm-holed in, might search cyberspace to find
the next Testament of America. The bards of the past
never foresaw generations living on keyboards –
the new breed of bionic humans texting, working,
buying, selling, browsing, loving one keystroke
at a time. The long-gone masters of the word might
manifesto against digital consumers who
only see bar codes embedded in their brains.
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