By Carleton Cronin, West Hollywood, California
Recently, the city sent out a call for residents to submit applications for a poet laureate for West Hollywood.
This post would be for a two-year period and the person chosen would have certain duties befitting such a post, with a small stipend for his expenses.
For a city which is heavily involved with the arts, this post is a natural and long overdue.
However, as a ceremonial position, because of the two-year tenure, it lacks the lasting charm of a permanent poet laureate, one whose works continue in print and one who can inspire the new poets.
Thus, I should like to make a recommendation: I submit my application for a permanent poet laureate – Walt Whitman.
Whitman is the everyman of poetry, the unquiet voice for all seasons He speaks for all Americans.
He has tenderness, insight, a joyful sound when joy is encountered, an understanding of the darkness which can overwhelm and a forceful intent to expose his own soul for examination by all - a necessity for a poet.
After all, what he sees, feels, thinks becomes his poetry.
To wander through Leaves of Grass, reprinted every year since 1892, is to encounter life in every shade, every nuance.
Herein the thoughts of a man discovering himself and joyfully declaring the findings. But, in expressing that joy, Whitman met with derision and outright contempt during the publishing of the early editions of his growing output of poetry.
Homoerotism could be found in a number of the more memorable pieces such as “I sing the body electric….”
Yet I, like many other young readers would not encounter such concerns as we read the intriguing words. And, here is my point for submitting Whitman: his appeal to all.
That he was very likely gay is beside the point – until one feels that he is a man for our time when the integration of all temperaments is the only way to survive as a culture.
The real simplicity of his work is the key to the man who believed in himself and inspired others to look inward and be strong
“In Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,
cheerful for freest action form’d under the law divine,
the Modern Man I sing.”
-Inscriptions – 1867