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In response to G's constant pushing of Whitman

In 1958 Pedro Mir, a Dominican poet, wrote the Countersong to Walt Whitman.

Contracanto a Walt Whitman translated by Jonathan Cohen

I, a son of the Caribbean,
Antillean to be exact.
The raw product of a simple
Puerto Rican girl and a Cuban worker,
born precisely, and poor,
on Quisqueyan soil.
Overflowing with voices,
full of eyes
wide open throughout the islands,
I have come to speak to Walt Whitman,
a kosmos, of Manhattan the son.
People will ask, Who are you? I understand.
Nobody had better ask me
who Walt Whitman is.
I would go sob on his white beard.
And yet,
I am going to say again who Walt Whitman is,
a kosmos, of Manhattan the son.

From a letter to Mr. Cohen by Pedro Mir

“Su traducción me ha fascinado. Sin ser literal, ni mucho menos, es tan fiel y conserva tanto el estilo mismo y en general el espíritu del poema, que a veces pienso que supera el original.” [Your translation fascinates me. Without being literal, not at all, it is so faithful and preserves the same style and in general the spirit of the poem so much, that sometimes I think it surpasses the original.] — Pedro Mir, letter to Jonathan Cohen (1986)



In that vein, you might be interested in this book.

indeed, i have it… you gave me an extra copy of yours.

Really? I had forgotten! How generous of me!

either that, or you were very, very appreciative that my wife, my dog and I put you and K up for a weekend of fun in an undisclosed location so that K could recieve an award.

then again, you’ve always given me books. like the time you gave me all the repeats you picked up at that give-away.

yes, there is a theme here… not generosity, just getting rid of second hand, used cellulose and ink.

Speaking of, did you get the photocopies?

yeah… thanks… i had meant to say that i got them, but i didn’t know how to without saying something snippy… like, gee, thanks for sending two months after you said you would. :)

They had to move crosstown with us, which meant they got packed; then we had to unpack them and realize, “Hey! Those were supposed to be sent two months ago!”

About the poem again: Whitman’s reception overseas and cross-cultures is rather astonishing. He translates well, and remarkably, he inspires response—whether in prose, in poetry, in criticism doesn’t matter. To read Whitman is to engender response to Whitman; to read Whitman is to write back to him. The response-to-Whitman poem is its own genre. The book I linked to in 1 illustrates this very well.

I think I’ve talked myself into reading Whitman again.

(But not before I finish Adichie. Half of a Yellow Sun is really good. Then, Gilead. Then, maybe, Whitman.)

i’ve been wanting to read gilead for a while now… i haven’t yet bought it, so it hasn’t made it that far up the list. then again, how many books languish on my selves untouched, uncaressed by my droopy, bed-room eyes?

G came to me for Xmas, along with Housekeeping, which I read already.

i quoted extensively from song of myself today in my post to the gradstudents… i do like whitman…