Thursday, August 28, 2008


S is for Solitary Singers

Now in a moment I know what I am for, I awake,
And already a thousand singers, a thousand songs, clearer, louder
and more sorrowful than yours,
A thousand warbling echoes have started to life within me, never to die.
--Walt Whitman, "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking"

As the new school year approaches, I’m hoping, as I always do, that my scholars will somehow “awake” during the year and feel the “thousand songs” that are inside them. It happened to Whitman, and it can happen to them. The poet was in his late 30’s, apparently, when something happened to cause him to awaken and begin to write like he’d never written before. He didn’t so much write as “sing”, in the sense of letting his feelings flow out like unfettered melodies. Later in this poem, he mentions that he was a “solitary singer” – a poet who sang his own unique songs and followed his own inner laws, a writer who was “alone” because he imitated no one. My scholars, I hope, can be singers like Whitman. Yes, they will have to follow my guidelines in writing their paragraphs and essays, but within those rules I’m trusting they will find the power to allow their words to make distinctive and original “music”. In this way – if it’s not hoping for too much – perhaps each of my scholars will be able, at some point this year, to say, like the poet, “Now in a moment I know what I am for.” Maybe they will each understand that living is for expressing, and that they can express themselves on paper (or computer) as easily as sparrows sing their songs, as unreservedly as Whitman wrote his free-and-easy poems.

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