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A Quiet Coming-Together: Walt Whitman, America, Keith Carter, This Post

Photograph by Keith Carter of Historic Portrait of Walt Whitman
As you may know, Walt Whitman published a number of editions of his great collection of poetry, Leaves of Grass.  Below is Section 17 from “Song of Myself” as it appeared in the original 1855 edition of Leaves.  If you compared this version of the Section to later versions, you’d see that this one is shorter, ending after the second stanza quoted here.  And if you considered our country’s current leadership and our bitterly-contentious people, then you’d know why I chose to quote this early version, with its references to “judges of the supreme court” and other kinds of workers and citizens.  And you might sense that I would have quoted this Section for its first stanza in any event, hoping that you might feel something in it of what I’ve been working to do in these posts of mine.

These are the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they are not original with me,

If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing or next to nothing,

If they do not enclose everything then they are next to nothing,

If they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle they are next to nothing,

If they are not just as close as they are distant they are nothing.

 

This is the grass that grows wherever the land is and the water is,

This is the common air that bathes the globe.

 

This is the breath of laws and songs and behaviour,

This is the tasteless water of souls. . . . this is the true sustenance,

It is for the illiterate. . . . it is for the judges of the supreme court,

            it is for the federal capitol and the state capitols,

It is for the admirable communes of literary men and composers and singers

            and lecturers and engineers and savans,

It is for the endless races of working people and farmers and seamen.

Soon after I thought of doing a post with these verses from Whitman, what you might call a poetic irony or happy coinciding occurred.  On an impulse, I decided to revisit Keith Carter’s photography website, especially to look for new work that I hadn’t seen yet.  Lo and behold, I found that he’s started a new series called “Beautiful Imperfect Things,” based on materials in the Walt Whitman Archives (yeah, that’s right, Walt Whitman!) kept in the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Collection at Duke University. Minor magic?  Doubtful telepathy?  Timely, at least, no doubt.

Photograph by Keith Carter of the first pages of “Song of Myself” in Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.

Lawrence Russ View All

Was the Alfred P. Sloan Scholar for the Humanities at the University of Michigan. Obtained a Master of the Fine Arts degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where I was selected as a Writing Fellow in Poetry by the Program faculty. Have published poems, essays and reviews in many magazines, anthologies, reference works, and other publications, including The Nation, The Iowa Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Parabola, OMNI, and the exhibition catalogue for Art at the Edge of the Law at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum. Received a law degree from the University of Michigan, and have changed the law and created educational programs in the fields of arts law, historic preservation law, and public construction and contracting law in the State of Connecticut. My photographs have appeared in international, national, regional and state juried exhibitions, and have been selected for awards including Honorable Mentions in the Architecture, Fine Art (series), Nature (series), Open Theme (series), Portrait, and Seascape categories from the international Fine Art Photography Awards, and an Honorable Mention in the Fine Art-Other category from the International Photography Awards. Photographs of mine have been selected for exhibition or publications by or in the 2019 International Juried Exhibition of the Center for Photographic Art (Carmel, CA), 2019 International Competition of The Photo Review, the 2019 Open Exhibition of the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins CO, F-Stop Magazine, Shadow & Light Magazine, Black Box Gallery in Portland OR, Praxis Gallery in Minneapolis MN, the Darkroom Gallery in VT, PhotoPlace Gallery in VT, A Smith Gallery in TX, the New Britain Museum of American Art, and many other journals and venues. My work has also been selected for inclusion in the Flatfile Program of Artspace New Haven (CT). My photography website is at www.lawrenceruss.com .

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