“… might equally open the critique of slavery…”*

*Carol Rumens commenting on her *Poem of the Week in The Guardian of 27 Jul 2015.

The opening and closing paragraphs of the commentary by Carol Rumens:

*”I Sing the Body Electric,” Walt Whitman (pictured) begins, in Part 1 of his best known and most enthralling early poems: “The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,/ They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them, /And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.” It was one of 12 poems Whitman printed and published himself as Leaves of Grass (1855), the first collection of a writer who, in his mid-30s, had suddenly found his unique form and themes…

…The body he animates is electrified above all by the way in which the parts interact, whether the interaction is explicit or implied, and by the way in which bodies interact, in mutual respect or its opposite, exploitation. As he tells us, bodies (“the likes of you and me”) are poems. This particular praise-song is to the young, healthy body, idealised, perhaps, but not in any sense deified. How astonishing it seems now that lines so frank in vocabulary (and metrically so free) could have been written in 1855. But then, this was the New World, and Whitman’s first symphony.”

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