Book of the Week

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Welcome back to another beautiful fall semester here at Skyline College. And with it, come not only breathtaking fog scapes, but also another installment of your favorite column focused solely on the written word, Book of the Week!!!

This week I would like to introduce you to something other than simply fiction novels. This week I would like to introduce you to one of the greatest poets this country has ever raised, the prophetic Walt Whitman. I recently purchased a copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, a collection of 14 volumes of poetry. Because of Whitman’s tendency to write long drawn out poetry, this makes the collection quite a hefty load, 456 pages of wild, eccentric poems. Reading every single page in order seemed like an unfair task to put myself to, so I continue to just skim through, reading whole poems at random, leaving the entirety of each single piece incomplete.

While glancing through the titles I found only a handful which I recognized, among them were, my personal favorite, “when I heard the learn’d astronomer”, “America”, and “O’ Captain, My Captain”, made popular (in my opinion) by the great and classic film, Dead Poet’s Society, starring Robin Williams. I personally adore the poem “when I heard the learn’d astronomer”, because it reminds me of myself so much. In this piece Whitman discusses how when sitting in a lecture hall listening to a professor he finds himself bored and tired of science and math, yet when he leaves, out into the night sky, he is taken back by the pure wonder and amazement within the scientific world.

One poem that caught my eye which I had never heard of before was, “from pent-up aching rivers”. This piece addresses many of Whitman’s favorite topics; nature, social pressures, orgies, and homosexuality and phallic images.

I also really enjoy Whitman’s writing style. He was so free flowing. He used a lot of archaic language and followed a very traditional, yet strange, rhyme pattern. Each poem is written to create its own personality yet also mirror similarities to its sister poems. Whitman truly is one of the most inventive writers of all time.

I sure hope that somebody out there goes to their local library or bookstore and looks up Walt Whitman, but be sure to open the book with an open mind.