from “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman (Favorite Poem Project)


My name’s John Doherty. I’m from Braintree, Massachusetts. I’m 34 years old and I’m a construction
worker for the Boston gas company. We do outside construction work providing natural gas for residents or
businesses. So a lot of digging, laying pipelines, tapping into gas
mains all outdoor work. The satisfying thing
about the job is you’re working with a dangerous element
really so it’s important to be exact in
everything you do. You certainly don’t want to leave any kind a gas leak behind so, you know, you have to be careful. You have to pay attention. Poetry was definitely intimidating initially it just looked like a lot of words that were out of order and out of
place and that did not belong together and that’s that’s the challenge of it. It just takes a lot
reading and rereading to grasp it but once you do, once you’ve come to understand it, you’ve achieved something so now you feel good. “Song of Myself” is a poem that I probably had a lot of difficulty understanding the first time and there were certain
lines that caught me and that I liked and when
I got to the very end of this very long poem the last half-dozen lines… so encouraging. He, in those last few
lines, Whitman tells you what you’re thinking. He says
that you probably didn’t understand what you just read but stay with it, and you will, and you’ll love it. And so it felt like it was speaking directly to me when I first
read it and I keep those lines in mind no matter what
I read now. The connection I feel with Walt Whitman’s poem “Song and Myself” is
not due to the fact that he talks about laborers… physical labor
working outside like the common working American. That’s a nice touch in it of course, but
I enjoyed it for it’s… it’s uplifting-ness. Its… its ability to inspire me and see things in life and in
everyday existence that I hadn’t noticed before, but I might have taken it for granted before. “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman. There is that in me—I do not know what it is—but I know it is in me. / Wrench’d and sweaty—calm and cool then my body becomes, /
I sleep—I sleep long. / I do not know it—it is without name— it is a word unsaid, /
It is not in any dictionary, utterance, symbol. / Something it swings on more than the earth I swing on, / To it the creation is the friend whose embracing awakes me. / Perhaps I might tell more. Outlines! I plead for my brothers and sisters. / Do you see O my brothers and sisters? /
It is not chaos or death—it is form, union, plan—it is eternal
life— it is Happiness. / The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me He complains of my gab / and my loitering. / I too am not a bit tamed—I too am untranslatable; / I sound my barbaric yawp over the the roofs of the world. / The last scud of day holds back for me; / it flings my likeness after the rest, and true as any, on the shadow’d wilds; / It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk. / I depart as air—I shake my white locks at the runaway sun; / I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags. / I bequeathe myself to the dirt, to grow from the grass I love; / If you want me again, look for me under your boot-soles. / You will hardly know who I am, or what I mean; / But I shall be good health to you nevertheless, / And filter and fibre your blood. / Failing to fetch me at first, keep encouraged; /
Missing me one place, search another; / I stop somewhere, waiting for you. / the Favorite Poem Project National Endowment for the Arts
fostering america’s creativity and investing in our living cultural
heritage additional funding has been provided by
the John S and James L Knight Foundation and by the
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

5 thoughts on “from “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman (Favorite Poem Project)

  1. Hey John – thx for ur reading – though i liked Song of Myself, i stopped reading because like you, i didn't get many parts, though i loved some! hope to pick it up again and complete 😉

  2. but does he have the hands of a construction worker ??..i have been working outside with wood ..concrete steel and iron for 30 years ..my fingers dont look like his

  3. Impressive, uplifting: John Doherty couldn´t do a better job communicating physically and verbally the intricacies from "Song of Myself".  Powerful!

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