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It Must Be "Song of Myself"

Incredulous, I literally gasped when I saw the topic "favorite poem." Favorite poem, you have to be kidding. Just one?

But the whole time I was sputtering and spinning the rolodex of my mind filled with lines and titles, I heard only one voice.

Walt Whitman's.

I read "Song of Myself"-reluctantly-for the first time as a junior in college. To fulfill the American Lit requirement of the Creative Writing Minor, I had to take a class in which, gasp, I read poetry other than my own, my classmates' and my own self-selected canon. Because it fit into my schedule, I chose a class on Whitman and Dickinson. Long a fan of Emily Dickinson, I had read most of her poetry by then, though I would learn to read and appreciate it in a new way.

But Walt Whitman grabbed me by the lapels and held my face to his for the entire semester (and still).

            I was shocked: "Undrape! You are not guilty to me, nor stale nor discarded"

            Agitated: "Urge and urge and urge,/Always the procreant urge of the world."

            I saw: "Blacksmiths with grimed and hairy chests environ the anvil"

            Tasted: "At the cider-mill tasting the sweets of the brown mash, sucking the/juice through a straw."

            I was puzzled: "Evil propels me and reform of evil propels me, I stand indifferent."

            I resisted: "Agonies are one of my changes of garments."

 But more than anything I believed: "Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,/Missing me one place search another,/I stop somewhere waiting for you."