America, Walt Whitman Is Now Tweeting His Masterpiece

Michael Humphrey
America, Walt Whitman Is Now Tweeting His Masterpiece

On this 235th birthday of the United States, I present you two of its children now come together: Walt Whitman and Twitter. @TweetsofGrass began nearly a month ago with, "I CELEBRATE myself," and has marched forth one line at a time since. The account describes the mission like this: "1855 Leaves of Grass, little by little, over and over." A month in, the poet finds himself less than halfway through "Song of Myself." And it's upside down, of course, which leads to some interesting questions. If recited in order, does the tweeter want us to experience "Leaves of Grass" in the moment, by keeping a close watch for his whims, or just accept that we'll snatch glimpses now and then, such as this one to end yesterday's recitation: "Still nodding night! Mad naked summer night!"? Or, does the tweeter want us to read from the bottom up? Whitman answers this question at the end of "Song of Myself" (with a few minor liberties):

If you want me again look for me under your [tweetdeck]. 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 [timeline]. Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, Missing me one place search [tweetmeme], I stop some where waiting for you

Today is a proper day to celebrate this new account, because not only is Whitman one of the great American poets, but he still gives voice to the greatest aspirations of our experiment with, "America."

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