• mustbefately

Walt Whitman Can Bite My Ass

I've always liked the idea of being someone who loves poetry, but I actually enjoy relatively little of it. When I was younger, this was a source of great turmoil for me— I thought I was stupid or boorish for being unable to appreciate the poetry we learned about in class. So I forced myself to take more and more classes, suffering through them in the hopes of someday becoming a Glamorous Cultured Individual Who Reads Poetry For Fun. It sortof worked. I do like some poetry, but I don't like most of it. Turns out, it's just a subjective medium and I have my own personal taste. Who'd've thunk?

In particular, I have very little patience for free verse*. There is some good free verse in the world, but it's fighting an uphill battle against my suspicion that it's secretly Prose With Pretentious Line Breaks. Which is fine! I like prose as well as anybody! But let's not kid ourselves.

A Free Verse Poem About Free Verse Poetry


don't get

a cookie

for hitting return

a bunch of times

You just don't

I'm sorry

Especially noxious is whenever a wh*te m*n wanks himself off, wipes his splooge on the nearest sheet of paper, and expects to win a Pulitzer for it. Get a meter or stfu, I have zero interest in your consciousness or its streams.

Which brings me to Whitman. If any mayo-complexioned buffoon ever shot a bigger load into a notebook and passed it off as a masterpiece, I have thankfully not been subjected to it. Song of Myself is insufferable. "Beverly you have no standing to disparage Whitman like this, you're not even a published poet." You're right, I'm not, because I have the decency to keep my cumstains to myself.

Song of Myself is THIRTEEN HUNDRED LINES LONG, you guys. That's epic poem territory. That's almost half as long as Beowulf, and more than twice as long as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Both of which, mind you, have meters to make them catchy and plots to make you give a rat's ass and even then they're a fuckin slog. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales tally up around 17,000 lines, which suffices to tell the life stories of 24 different characters. Whitman wrote a wholeass Canterbury tale about himself hanging out in the woods feelin' cute, and couldn't even be bothered to make it rhyme. Thirteen hundred lines of unmemorable waffle— by today's standards, little more than thirteen hundred tweets that should've stayed in drafts.

I'm not kidding. I know it sounds like comedic roast hyperbole, but I had to read so much Whitman in college that what started as distaste escalated into a very nasty personal grudge. I will never forgive him for being such a pointless, longwinded pain in my ass.


and yes, it does pain me to admit this.

But there is one (1) excerpt from this godforsaken trainwreck of a poem that I really fuck with.

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes."

Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Nor is it lost on me that this one quote is the only thing that could possibly justify me vibing with one single line of a thirteen hundred line poem I despise. I consider this my divine retribution for having Hot Takes™️ about a dude who's been dead for a hundred years.

Whatever. I contradict myself. Bite me.

I find myself, periodically, faced with the question "how would you describe yourself?" I always say "I wouldn't." This is naturally taken as a joke, and I am compelled to give a more satisfying answer, which I hate. I hate it because every time I give myself an adjective, I spend the next week/month/year/decade agonizingly aware of all the ways in which that adjective isn't really true. I say I'm extroverted, only to feel like a liar every time I cancel plans to stay home and drink tea with my cats. I say I'm highly motivated, only to feel like a hypocrite every time I take a nap instead of writing a blog post**. I say I'm confident, only to chicken out and bail whenever I'm intimidated.

Unfortunately, you can't say "I contradict myself; I am large!" in a job interview*** so I guess I'm stuck telling pretty-sounding half-truths forever, god forgive me. But for the sake of my own peace of mind, I need to reconcile myself to contradicting myself. I don't claim to have accomplished this yet, but I also don't think I'm the only one who feels this way. In a post-industrial, information-age society, where the division of labor is taken for granted and your personal value is tied to the strength of your personal brand, you're constantly tapdancing on the tightrope of being pigeonholed and becoming a cartoon of yourself, or else alienating people who expect you to feel the same way now as you felt an hour ago.****

So what? What do you want, nuance? On the internet? In the year of our lord two thousand and twen-ty?

What would that even look like? Hypothetically, might it look like a rambly slice-of-life blog that is about everything at once and therefore nothing in particular? Who wants that? Would anyone read it? Does it MATTER if anyone reads it, as long as it helps me extricate myself from this knot of contradictory feelings? Will me unknotting myself help anybody else unknot themselves?

Remains to be seen. Stick tight! There's a comment section if you're into that sort of thing, feel free. I'm still sorting out how to work the mailing list to notify folks when I make a new post, so thanks for your patience. If you've made it this far, you're a generous soul and I appreciate it— I'm gonna attempt a really cool project this weekend and that'll probably be my next post, so you can look forward to that!


*my distaste for free verse has abated somewhat in recent years. feel free to attribute this to either personal growth or stockholm syndrome, as you see fit.

**or paint a painting, or record a song, or practice piano, or go for a run, or bake a loaf of bread, or work late, or play hide and seek with my niece and nephew, or read a book, or listen to an album, or, or, or, or any of the million things I'm always supposed to be doing but don't.

***two things might happen. either your interviewer won't recognize the quote and just think you're a maniac, or else they WILL recognize the quote and they'll think you're the kind of douchebag who's like, SUPER into Whitman. I can't imagine anything worse.

****I cannot be held responsible for the way I felt an hour ago. That was a different phase of life. I've been through like 6 moods since then; I don't even remember that bitch, idk what she said to you but it's not my problem.

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