Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

What Makes Us So Alike Is What Makes Us Human . . .


I’m a writer—blogger, novelist, short story scrivener, non-fiction essayist, poet; and it’s that last one that can cause so many avid readers to cringe.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

Yet, due to the recommendation of my Best Friend, I’ve watched a video that does much more than show that “ordinary” folk can totally deal with poetry:

A film-maker set out to make a regional documentary and produced a Work of Art…

“Everyday” people in the U.S. state of Alabama willingly recited some of Walt Whitman‘s poetry…

Classic poetry became vernacular…

The simple became spiritual…

Some uncomplicated folk reached into the core of my heart…

And, it definitely made me cry…

You can read about the film-maker, Jennifer Crandall, and her project in The New Yorker; or, visit the project’s WebSite; but, I want to give you the engaging words of my Best Friend, author Jane Watson (interviewed here in November 2011 and December 2012)

~~~~~~~~~

“I have watched this short documentary at least twelve times, in fact I can’t stop watching it – every time I sit down to write I feel I must return to it. When I finally work out why it has affected me so much… I will probably write my own piece of prose to myself…

“I did not read Whitman much at University but I read some of his verse. I’m glad I did not read him when I was eighteen because now I can read him perhaps with more understanding.  I confess when I was young I had a prejudice about some parts of  Leaves of Grass.  As I watched this video poem of Verse 43, I lost this prejudice.  I loved the documentary, the words of the poem, the musicality of the verse, and the people who spoke it. By the end I had come to the conclusion that the Alabama voice is the most lyrical, poetic, and soul affecting I had ever heard.

“When everyday folks speak they make music.

“Interestingly enough the first reader in the video, Billy Wayne, told the documentary maker that he did not agree with some of Whitman’s words. So she asked him: then why did you read it? And he had a simple answer: because you asked me to.

“You might wonder why anyone would want to listen to people reading an unfamiliar poem, some of which they do not agree with, but Billy Wayne, I think, nails it. A poem is a gift… and the reading of its words is a gift to the listener. When Billy Wayne transforms from a shy elderly guy from the backwoods of Alabama, a prisoner of his failing health (he has to use oxygen and a motorised scooter sits out the front in the long grass near the rotting disused sofa), to a brave man seated straight before the camera reading words so carefully, something shifted for me so profoundly it has stayed with me since… I was connected to him and his fragile mortal tragedy in the most intimate way.

“Whitman says in the beginning of Leaves of Grass:

‘…For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you…’

“As we see the close up of Billy Wayne’s face, naked in all its courage, we see his inner essence and realise that the body matters so little. The beauty of the Alabama landscape captured by the wonderful camera work takes us out of this world and it seems that the film-maker is saying: ‘look, look beyond this …’ … just as Whitman was.

“I think Whitman would have really loved this documentary. It personifies his words:

‘…Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left),
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the  dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self…’

“We do listen to many sides in this documentary. We see the accusation in Anthony’s eyes as he tightens the nuts on his car tire and says: ‘…I know everyone of you, I know the sea of torment, doubt, despair, and unbelief…’

“We see the open, vulnerable face of young Diana, who, although exhausted from the heat and from cleaning the motel room of the documentary makers, reads her piece of verse until she faints…

“I am not going to apologise for going so overboard in my enthusiasm of this video. It has a quality that moves me deeply, which I will only do a disservice to, if I try to explain it too much.. so go watch it.”

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For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

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One response to “What Makes Us So Alike Is What Makes Us Human . . .

  1. Alexander M Zoltai May 11, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:

    Yes, I’m re-blogging my own blog from yesterday…

    I consider it that important…

    Plus, folks come here mostly from Google searches and finding “yesterday” might be a problem :-)

    Liked by 1 person

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