One thing I do is volunteer to read for Recording for the Blind. Lately they’ve stuck me in a Walt Whitman poetry book which is not such a bad location for me. I remember my first real introduction to Whitman (apart from a stale appraisal of him in eleventh grade English)came from an actor in Summer Stock who thought Whitman was the best poet in the world. He sat up at night reading aloud (this actor) with great intensity. The language spilled over onto the whole room, almost drowning me in words. While I now think Whitman somewhat old-fashioned and excessive, I do think he captures life with an immediacy . He does not read as though he counted measures, crossed words out, and made apologies for his passions.
He was America when America still had young blood. We had not smoothed out corners and found an easy life. But we were about the business of trying to grow, change, add.
My poetry is of a different immediacy. A very personal immediacy that does not sing of the continent, but of the country within me. I have no skyscrapers or vast waters. Emily Dickinson wrote at the same time of her smaller world. Perhaps because women had smaller worlds. Now life has changed, but I still could not write like Whitman. Nor Dickinson. Perhaps the vastness of America can contain many poets with many voices.