Friday, January 06, 2012

Poetry Friday -- You Shall


This is what you shall do

by Walt Whitman

"This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body."

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My own personal "you shall"s for the new year are already stumbling. I think Whitman had the right idea with his -- kind of a "shoot for the moon, and if you miss at least you'll hit the stars" sort of philosophy.

Maybe instead of focusing so much on my "do this every day, do one of those every week" self-commandments, I need to have a better vision of the person I think I'll be if I hold myself to them, in all their minutia. I need to ask myself, "Is this what I need to do to "be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in words"? "

If your New Year's "you shall"s are still on track, good for you! If yours are also already stumbling, I give you permission to have a do-over or a restart (as many times as you need it in the next 51 weeks).

JoAnn has the Poetry Friday roundup today at Teaching Authors.

13 comments:

  1. So beautifully said--by you and Walt Whitman. This is such a wonderful guideline for New Year's resolutions!

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  2. Great inspirational words and Pic.

    All the best to you in 2012!

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  3. This is one of the pieces I have taped in my writer's notebook, & FYI, I stumble a lot, but keep it as a reminder as you seemed to say later in your post, Mary Lee. I love the way you created the metaphor of a poem for your life: ""Is this what I need to do to "be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in words"? " How lovely to think about!

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  4. I like the 'do these this week' idea. Thanks for the post!

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  5. Wonderful, thoughtful post, Mary Lee - Thank you. Echoing Linda's praise for your pondering how to "be a great poem..." A dear poet friend gave me a little framed collage I keep right above my computer which says, "Live your poem." Happy 2012!

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  6. dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency ....
    those are words to live by - I love Whitman's exuberance, his sense of what is possible.

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  7. I'm usually not a big Whitman fan but this is really great. Thank you for sharing it.

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  8. to 'be a poem'. I love that thought!

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  9. Beautiful, Mary Lee. Worthy resolutions, to be sure. Standing up for the stupid and crazy seems like a bit of a stretch in an election year, but I'll see what I can do!

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  10. Yeah, Tabatha, I'm not so sure about some of his SPECIFICS, especially the one about the stupid and crazy! I like the sureness of his tone and how all of his YOU SHALLs are pointed away from the individual. Part of the reason I'm dissatisfied with my own personal YOU SHALLs is that they are all pointed at ME.

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  11. "be a great poem" -- I love that. I have a little plaque beside my bed that says, "Live Your Poem." I am inspired by your big picture approach.

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  12. This is beautiful! I'm going to print it out and put it up somewhere, or maybe several somewheres, in my life. And as someone who definitely needs a major do over about eight times a day, I love your comments about your own life. Thank you so much for the poetry you bring into the lives of all of your readers!

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  13. Our posts are definitely cousins!

    Those pesky resolutions...

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