Just another Looking for Whitman weblog

Jennica for October Eight

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenny and walt at 12:14 am on Thursday, October 8, 2009

After reading through Drum-Taps and Memories of President Lincoln, one of the poems that caught my attention was “Delicate Cluster.” Though many, if not all, were dedicated to the war, this poem in particular made me curious as to whom the work was truly dedicated to. The last line intrigued me the most:

Delicate Cluster

DELICATE cluster! flag of teeming life!
Covering all my lands —all my seashores lining!
Flag of death! (how I watch’d you through the smoke of battle pressing!
How I heard you flap and rustle, cloth definant!)
Flag cerulean —sunny flag, with the orbs of night dappled!
Ah my silvery beauty —ah my woolly white and crimson!
Ah to sing the song of you, my matron might!
My sacred one, my  mother.
(Whitman 454)

If you read the poem, clearly on the surface, it seems like Whitman is showing his love, dedication, and reverence towards the American flag. I loved all of his different usage of descriptions in describing the flag. It is teeming, full of life; yet, at the same time, a “[f]lag of death.” (I just love his uses of contradictions.) The flag is also decorated in “cerulean,” “orbs of night dappled” with “silvery beauty” in “woolly white and crimson.” Last but not least, the great American flag is Whitman’s “matron mighty.” However, Whitman finishes off by calling the flag his “sacred one,” his “mother.”

This puzzles, yet interests me the most. At first, when I read the poem, I automatically assumed that either the flag would be an “it” or at least, male. (Could this be the work of cultural/political brainwash done to me? Sadly I have automatically assumed the flag to be male instead of female.. Feminists, please spare me..) But Whitman surprisingly personifies the flag as female. Better yet, his mother. Now I read the poem a second time. Then a third. Then I realized how Whitman somehow personifies the flag as female. For instance, diction such as “teeming life,” “seashores lining,” “orbs of night dappled,” “silvery beauty,” “woolly white and crimson.” If you think about it, these words do resonate well with females. However, in Whitman’s case, the woman is strong, mighty, and a warrior.

But what I really want to know is what underlying connections might he have had with his mother…

Jennica’s Second Imagegloss on “keptwoman” and Ceniza’s article

Filed under: Image Gloss — jenny and walt at 11:33 am on Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Example of a KeptWoman

I will not have a single person slighted or left away,
The keptwoman and sponger and thief are hereby invited
. . . . the heavy-lipped slave is invited . . . . the veneralee is invited,
There shall be no difference between them and the rest. (Whitman 44)


After looking through a couple of variations of “kept woman” on the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), I was not successful. However, when I typed in “kept,” here is what showed up:

kept, ppl. a.

In various senses derived from KEEP v.; spec.    

1. a. Maintained or supported by a paramour. Also of a man or boy maintained or supported in a homosexual relationship.
b. Financially supported by, and in consequence under the private control of, interested persons.

 So what exactly is a kept woman?

According to, a kept woman is “an adulterous woman; a woman who has an ongoing extramarital sexual relationship with a man” (“kept woman”). In other words, this individual is someone who smooches off another financially (most likely through a sexual relationship). Therefore, this goes back to definition b of the OED.


Most interestingly enough, I thought this was perfect for one of the readings we had to do for our class: “Woman as a Theme in Whitman’s Writing“. This article by Sherry Ceniza speaks about the different voices that spoke out during Whitman’s time through 19th century women’s perspectives. Some praised Whitman’s representation of women of “the new woman, the democratic woman” in his writings (Ceniza 797); however, a few criticized him for his “lack of representation of woman working outside the home” (Ceniza 798). Still,the author claims that during Whitman’s time, “[t]hough Whitman’s representation of women in his writing is not consistently in touch with contemporary feminism, it must be put into its historical perspective;” “it is difficult to view Whitman’s literary representation of women as anything but positive” (Ceniza 797). So far, my take on this is neutral. Though I agree with Ceniza in some aspects, on the other note, I can’t say wholeheartedly that Whitman wasn’t biased towards women in every line of his works. Often times, he does portray women with a condescending overtone using specific diction or descriptions of women. For instance, in the Children of Adam poems, “A Woman Waits for Me,” Whitman makes women sound like some sort of baby-machines.

 Then, going back to my image gloss of a kept woman, Whitman is saying that even kept women are valued as equals. “There shall be no difference between them and the rest”. But if you think about it, what made me curious was his linking of kept women with spongers, thiefs, and heavy-lipped slaves. Maybe I am reading too much into it, but what may have been Whitman’s intention of grouping these individuals together?

Here are some interesting things I found on the web:

Want to become a kept woman? Transform Me!


Works Cited
Ceniza, Sherry.  “Women as a Theme in Whitman’s Writing.”  The Woman’s Rights Movement and Whitman
kept, ppl. a.The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 4 Apr. 2000 <>.

“kept woman.”  The Free Dictionary.  Princeton University, Farlex Inc.  2003-2008  <>.

Jennica’s Second Frontispiece

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenny and walt at 3:52 pm on Monday, October 5, 2009

Heaven and Hell

“The pleasures of heaven are with me, and the pains of hell are with me,
The first I graft and increase upon myself . . . . the latter I translate into a new tongue” (46)


As Whitman also inscribes within these lines, life can often shed moments of heaven and hell at the same time. How, you ask? Well, take a look at the picture above for instance. It may seem like a mere snapshot of a couple grown adults with a bunch of children. However, have you thought of what might be there beneath these smiles? In fact, if you take an even more meticulous look, notice how most of the kids are not smiling. Perhaps, one or two of them may be staring at you with a rather weak grin. These faces who are staring at you from your computer screen as we speak are a few of the many lost, abandoned children of South Korea.

This past summer, I flew to Korea for the first time and spent about three months eating, sleeping, and teaching English to orphans from remote areas of South Korea. Technically, I was asked to teach them English. However, after a couple weeks living and breathing with them under one roof, I ended up teaching them more than mere English. I taught them self-confidence, self-esteem, survival skills. But that wasn’t all. I wasn’t the only teacher there. They taught me life.

We ended up teaching each other life. Humanity.

If you wonder what it’s like to experience heaven and hell in one particular space and time, try flying  yourself to an orphanage and look into the eyes of one lost child. (Apparently, I think I’m beginning to sound like some sort of quack advertiser for a junk product…) but really, you’d feel heaven through these kids’ smiles and laughter. Then a moment later, hell, through their tears, empty eyes and fake laughter.

This picture was the day I had to leave Korea. As the child I am holding hands with looks up and asks me, “Mommy, where are you going,” at this moment in time, I’d say was one of the epitomes of Hell-experiences I’ve had to face in my life.

Jennica for October One

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenny and walt at 8:51 am on Thursday, October 1, 2009

The readings for the first of October were certainly things I have never read for any other previous October firsts’.

And just when I thought Whitman knew what he was talking about when he touches his pen to his paper…

Now I’m beginning to think, does he really know what he’s talking about? Does he really “think” before he writes? Or was he just a horny beast during the time he wrote Children of Adam and Calamus? I can see his true, honest, maybe too-honest, open respects and appreciation for the body and how the body works, but never have I read more of a porn in a book known to have been produced in the 19th century.

Since it was pretty much hard to find anything not related to sex or …more sex…  in these readings, I will simply comment on one of the poems from one of his greatest works (C.o.A.):

O Hymen! O Hymenee!

O HYMEN!  O hymenee! why do  you tantalize me thus?
O why sting me for a swift moment only?
Why can you not continue? O why do you now cease?
Is it because if you continued beyond the swift moment  you would sonn certainly kill me?

At first, I told myself: no, he can’t be serious. He couldn’t have seriously written something about the hymen… a complete poem dedicated to a female organ? So I did some research. I looked up the word on OED and there were a couple definitions.

The first definition stated:

1. In Greek and Roman mythology: The god of marriage, represented as a young man carrying a torch and veil. Hymen’s band, etc., marriage, wedlock. Hymen’s temple, fane, etc., the church at which a marriage is solemnized.
2. Marriage; wedlock; wedding, nuptials. Now rare.
3. A wedding-hymn, hymeneal song. rare.

That’s the first part. The second definition would be the more well-known today:

1. Anat. The virginal membrane, a fold of mucous membrane stretched across and partially closing the external orifice of the vagina.

So there it is. A whole poem dedicated to just the hymen. If we look at the two different definitions we know Whitman wasn’t (I think) talking about the god of marriage or a wedlock. He seems to be talking about the female organ. However, there is something unique about this poem. Although he’s talking about the latter definition, the way in which he presents his piece is in a song-like or ode, even, to a Greek god.

Anyhow, here is a picture of the Greek god of marriage, Hymen, and Eros:

Greek Marriage protector and guardian of fidelity.

Greek Marriage protector and guardian of fidelity.

“hymen1.” OED Online. 2nd ed 1989. Oxford University Press. <>.

“hymen2.” OED Online. 2nd ed 1989. Oxford University Press. <>.

Whitman’s “war-paralysis” through Erkkila

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenny and walt at 12:24 am on Tuesday, September 29, 2009

In the critical review, Whitman the Political Poet, Betsy Erkkila writes how Whitman had suffered from a severe paralytic stroke that also led him to be hospitalized during the war time. There is also a claim that “his stroke was at least partly a result of the psychic demons that came to haunt him during and after the war years” (Betsy 279). He had also appeared to have suffered from some sort of “shell shock” as well (Betsy 279). Reading this, it comes to my attention that maybe something may have happened to Whitman during the war time. I am curious as to what might have occured to Whitman: why would he have shown shell-shock symptoms? Could this maybe have had a more powerful affect on his writings than we imagined? Sometimes I wonder if Whitman is really a reliable writer… But then again, I wonder, is any writer a reliable writer…

Erkkila, Betsy.  Whitman the Political Poet.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Just a little something random?

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenny and walt at 12:16 pm on Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I thought this was pretty interesting; it’s a poem for kids I randomly discovered on the net:

Walt and Humpty Dumpty??

But what’s more interesting is what I also randomly found (the beauties of google :p )…

Walt Whitman (supposedly) ate four raw eggs for breakfast every day for the last 20 years of his life!

And if you read some of his poems, he wrote quite a lot about eggs..
maybe he had some sort of obsession over eggs??

By the way, now I’m curious as to how Whitman would’ve liked his eggs.. hm..

Jennica’s Image gloss on “daguerreotype”

Filed under: Image Gloss — jenny and walt at 11:24 pm on Tuesday, September 15, 2009

1850 Daguerreotype Camera

“The camera and plate are prepared, the lady must sit for her daguerreotype, …” (41)


daguerreotype, n

1. One of the earliest photographic processes, first published by Daguerre of Paris in 1839, in which the impression was taken upon a silver plate sensitized by iodine, and then developed by exposure to the vapour of mercury.

b. The apparatus used for this process (obs.). c. A portrait produced by this process.

2. fig. An exact representation or description. Obs. (since the daguerreotype itself has yielded to improved photographic processes).

“daguerreotype, n.The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 4 Apr. 2000 <>.


In Whitman’s Song of Myself, daguerreotype immediately caught my eye. I knew it had to be some sort of mechanism related to the camera or photography, but what interested me was how Whitman illustrated the lady with connection to the word. He says how “the lady must sit for her daguerreotype” (41). It sounded almost.. exotic, mysterious, medical, even. It sounds like she’s ready for some sort of exquisite operation ready to be performed on her. Then I remember reading in Reynold’s A Cultural Biography, how during the 1800s of Whitman’s time, there was a revolution in everything–this included forms of art and music. Though in the time of “deteriorating social conditions,” where he saw “ugly materialism and corruption” these new forms of art offered a “rationale for an organic ar based on natural rhythms and free forms” (280).

So what exactly is a daguerreotype?
First introduced by a Frenchman, Louis Jacques-Mande Daguerre 1839, this newly invented representation of reality and everyday human beings became the popular form of photography. By 1839 in New York, this type of photography was on fire.

With the birth of the daguerreotype..
“artists could no longer flatter their subjects by making them appear beautiful or intelligent ” (Reynolds 281).

(now divert your eye to the nude woman below: her natural form of beauty shines right through)

"The Well-Taken Photograph" (Reynolds 280)

"The Well-Taken Photograph" (Reynolds 280)


Daguerreotype in the 21st century???

While surfing Youtube, I found this really interesting! It’s only 1:25 seconds. Take a look!

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.

David Aguirre Hoffmann uses 21st century media to recreate the feeling of a daguerreotype! : )

[a /a]

note: can’t get the link to work..and the woman and video refuse to be centered..
so not friendly with computers : ( darn..

Song of Jennica

Filed under: Song of Myself — jenny and walt at 6:10 pm on Thursday, September 3, 2009

Song of Jenny

I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,

Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,

Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a [wo]man,

Stuff’d with the stuff that is coarse and stuff’d with the stuff

that is fine,

One of the nation of many nations, the smallest the same

and the largest the same,

– Whitman “Song of Myself” [16]

The moment I read the first lines, I am of old and young, I felt something shoot up into me. Though turning twenty-two is just around the corner, I often feel disconnected from my age. Often times, I feel like I’m twelve. Other times, I feel thirty. Or perhaps even forty. The day I turned five, I have been my mother’s living diary. My mother, a small Korean woman who merely made the mistake of obliviously following a man into a country she never even dreamed of, had lived her earlier marriage days drawing white clouds on white walls. She had once told me that if she didn’t have me to talk to, she would’ve been painting white clouds in her mind before she had even hit her thirties. I have never regretted her making me into her living diary. However as everything in life as its pros and cons, my situation showed its two facets. Though I was able to taste the realities of life earlier than the rest of my peers, I had also lost a good portion of my childhood. However, that didn’t mean that I was completely a mature adult either: I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise. This is because I was still my age. As I grew older, while my father wasn’t around as he should’ve been, I became her daughter, friend, mother, father and husband. At an early age, I realized that I had to be the father of my younger sister, and the husband of my mother. Apparently, I became Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a [wo]man.

Today, I try to balance myself according to what’s appropriate for my age. But I still feel like I’m stuck in between two of everything– even nationalities. Though I was born in America, due to my very-Korean parents, I can be very Korean as well. Sometimes it’s hard to decipher whether I belong in America or Korea. I am of old and young…One of the nation of many nations, the smallest the same / and the largest the same…

This was the Song of Me. The Song of Jenny. The Song of Jennica. The Song of a Girl-In-Search-Of-Herself.

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