Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Not So Final, Final Project...feel free to remix it as you will.

Below you will find a track listing of the poems that we have read throughout the course by our beloved loafer Walt Whitman. After each poem, you will them find a song that I have selected that I believe connects to the central theme of each of the poems. I tried to remain as brief as possible regarding what I believed each of Whitman’s poems were hinting at and by no means provide them as a definitive description of what his poems are about. I hope that you all will enjoy and can gain a sense of how I have come to connect with Whitman through some of the poetry and music that I listen to frequently.

Whitman: The KenMix
I. Calamus Poems -- comradeship – reader/poet – future/present – bonds shared between “brothers.”

Gil Scott-Heron poem Brother this poem is directed at pseudo-revolutionaries who “talk the talk” and have the “look of a revolutionary,’ but pack no substance. As the poem concludes, the final lines represent the poetic turn where the speaker calls on his brother to “help that woman/help that man […].”

II. When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d -- an elegy written after the death of Abraham Lincoln

James Brown That’s Life -- following the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., James “The Godfather” Brown performed this song at the Boston Garden.  At the time, riots were breaking out in cities all over the United States. Most historians credit Brown’s performance with helping to stop any riots from breaking out in Boston. The title of the song suggests that the death of civil rights could be summed up no more simply than be stating: “That’s Life.”

** bonus link to history.com site that provides a top-notch summary of “this date in history.” http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/james-brown-calms-boston-following-the-king-assassination

III. Song of Myself  -- inclusivity -- bringing together people from all walks of life

Dance to the Music – Sly and the Family Stone – at the request of record executive Clive Davis, Sly Stone was asked to create a sound that was “more commercially viable.” The result of Stone’s creative genius resulted in the song Dance to the Music. From the creation process to the final product, I believe that this is one of the many songs that share similar characteristics as Whitman’s Song of Myself. I believe that Stone’s use of the entire band and all of the lead singers combined with the song’s message that urges the entire crowd to “dance to the music.” Ultimately, the make-up of the band members and audience represent, for me, an attempt by Stone to break down the binaries of black and white just as Whitman breaks down numerous binaries throughout his poem.

IV. Crossing the Brooklyn Ferry -- sharing spaces and places. Natural meets unnatural or man-made. When the speaker of Walt's poem says, "others will see [...] A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred/ years hence, others will see them/ will enjoy the sunset, the pouring of the flood-/tide, the falling back to the sea of the ebb-tide" it captures a sense of shared time and space that I believe Walt was hinting at. 

San Francisco Anthem - San Quinn -- song was originally written by George Cory and Douglass Cross and was popularized by Tony Bennet as I Left my Heart in San Francisco. The remix version provided here by San Quinn captures some same sentiments regarding aspects of San Francisco that are shared: streets, public transit, bridges and neighborhoods to name a few. 

Song of Occupations --  as title suggests, this poem is about work: specifically, the notion of not being defined by an occupation. 

She Works Hard for Her Money -- Donna Summer -- while Summer "works hard for her momey," it is more important that you "treat her right." I believe this sentiment captures exactly the idea that Whitman is hinting at. 


  1. Great project idea, wish I'd thought of it. I never knew about that piece of history regarding James Brown's part in history after the MLK assassination... it's amazing what music can do. And RIP Donna Summer.

  2. Most excellent! I can see this project moving in all kinds of great directions . . .