Poet C. K. Williams’ new volume “On Whitman” returned me not only to Whitman’s work, but to remembrance of participation in a public celebration of his work as well. The setting was at a Meeting House in Genesee Country Village and Museum, south of Rochester, New York. The occasion was a reading in full of “Leaves of Grass” by 52 area readers in 2006.
Was it happenstance, the intent of the organizer, or a lingering nod from Walt himself that provided the opening for a pastor such as myself to be assigned the subsequently-altered portion of his 1855 poem which begins “O Christ! My fit is mastering me!”
Hearing the whole of the original “Leaves” read out loud nearly mastered me that day. It’s like sitting through a reading of the Gospel of Mark, prior to its own subsequent “roundings.” Not un-planned in its native form by the author, of course, but powerful in its telling all at once and in one breath; or in 52.