Tag: found poetry

Walt Whitman, “Pioneers! O Pioneers!”


As used in the ridiculously epic Levi’s ad now on the airwaves. Hearing the commercial the first time I was a bit startled, thinking wow, this sounds a lot like Whitman…well. The idea of finding great artistic merit in a commercial is still a bit strange to me, and although it is weird to hear Mr Whitman used to hawk jeans (one could argue though that this ad has little do do with jeans, except people are wearing them), I have to give props for bringing a rather old-fashioned – and rather awesome – poem into the modern context. Manifest Destiny – sexy again I guess?

Come my tan-faced children,
Follow well in order, get your weapons ready,
Have you your pistols? have you your sharp-edged axes?
Pioneers! O pioneers!

For we cannot tarry here,
We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger,
We the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

O you youths, Western youths,
So impatient, full of action, full of manly pride and friendship,
Plain I see you Western youths, see you tramping with the foremost,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Have the elder races halted?
Do they droop and end their lesson, wearied over there beyond the seas?
We take up the task eternal, and the burden and the lesson,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

All the past we leave behind,
We debouch upon a newer mightier world, varied world,
Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labor and the march,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

We detachments steady throwing,
Down the edges, through the passes, up the mountains steep,
Conquering, holding, daring, venturing as we go the unknown ways,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

We primeval forests felling,
We the rivers stemming, vexing we and piercing deep the mines within,
We the surface broad surveying, we the virgin soil upheaving,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Colorado men are we,
From the peaks gigantic, from the great sierras and the high plateaus,
From the mine and from the gully, from the hunting trail we come,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

From Nebraska, from Arkansas,
Central inland race are we, from Missouri, with the continental
blood intervein’d,
All the hands of comrades clasping, all the Southern, all the Northern,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

O resistless restless race!
O beloved race in all! O my breast aches with tender love for all!
O I mourn and yet exult, I am rapt with love for all,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Raise the mighty mother mistress,
Waving high the delicate mistress, over all the starry mistress,
(bend your heads all,)
Raise the fang’d and warlike mistress, stern, impassive, weapon’d mistress,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

See my children, resolute children,
By those swarms upon our rear we must never yield or falter,
Ages back in ghostly millions frowning there behind us urging,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

On and on the compact ranks,
With accessions ever waiting, with the places of the dead quickly fill’d,
Through the battle, through defeat, moving yet and never stopping,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

O to die advancing on!
Are there some of us to droop and die? has the hour come?
Then upon the march we fittest die, soon and sure the gap is fill’d.
Pioneers! O pioneers!

All the pulses of the world,
Falling in they beat for us, with the Western movement beat,
Holding single or together, steady moving to the front, all for us,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Life’s involv’d and varied pageants,
All the forms and shows, all the workmen at their work,
All the seamen and the landsmen, all the masters with their slaves,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

All the hapless silent lovers,
All the prisoners in the prisons, all the righteous and the wicked,
All the joyous, all the sorrowing, all the living, all the dying,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

I too with my soul and body,
We, a curious trio, picking, wandering on our way,
Through these shores amid the shadows, with the apparitions pressing,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Lo, the darting bowling orb!
Lo, the brother orbs around, all the clustering suns and planets,
All the dazzling days, all the mystic nights with dreams,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

These are of us, they are with us,
All for primal needed work, while the followers there in embryo wait behind,
We to-day’s procession heading, we the route for travel clearing,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

O you daughters of the West!
O you young and elder daughters! O you mothers and you wives!
Never must you be divided, in our ranks you move united,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Minstrels latent on the prairies!
(Shrouded bards of other lands, you may rest, you have done your work,)
Soon I hear you coming warbling, soon you rise and tramp amid us,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Not for delectations sweet,
Not the cushion and the slipper, not the peaceful and the studious,
Not the riches safe and palling, not for us the tame enjoyment,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Do the feasters gluttonous feast?
Do the corpulent sleepers sleep? have they lock’d and bolted doors?
Still be ours the diet hard, and the blanket on the ground,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Has the night descended?
Was the road of late so toilsome? did we stop discouraged nodding
on our way?
Yet a passing hour I yield you in your tracks to pause oblivious,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

Till with sound of trumpet,
Far, far off the daybreak call–hark! how loud and clear I hear it wind,
Swift! to the head of the army!–swift! spring to your places,
Pioneers! O pioneers!



William Shatner reveals crazyhead Sarah Palin’s true form: Ginsberg-esue beat poet. Interesting how rambling jibber-jabber turns into poetry just by adding some beat and intonation, eh?

Poetry in Baseball


Kubel hit for the cycle on Friday night, a feat in and of itself. But the real magic was that his homerun to complete the cycle was actually a grand slam, after the Angels foolishly walked Morneau to load the bases and bring up Kubes. Silly Angels. Watch the score – the Twins were down 4-9 in the 8th, only to rally back and win the game 11-9, thanks to some nice hitting, a “patented Redmond double,” some RBI, and of course Kubel’s slam. This is why I love baseball.

Found Poetry: The Stockyards of South St. Paul


Dan Barry of the New York Times brought his excellent column, This Land, to the Twin Cities recently, where he wrote about the final day and the last auction at the South St. Paul stockyard, which has been bought and sold to make way for suburbanization. “Pens for people,” Barry notes. I have some vague remembering of these stockyards existing, but I never really knew anything about them. I didn’t know that they were once the largest in the country, for example.

Being a fan of Carl Sandburg I really enjoyed this piece, a story about the clash between two Americas and the ground lost by one of them, the America that Sandburg and others with a poetic bent would consider the “real” or “honest” America. Barry honors Sandburg with his lyrical prose and vivid retelling of the stockyard’s last day. He leaves the social tension simmering in the background while focusing on the lives and stories of those who work/worked the yards for many years. I’m especially taken (as Barry was) with the auctioneer’s tale, how he sing-songs his way into history. The poetry of the occasion is not lost on the workers or ranchers; they name the last cow to be sold “Timeless.” Nor is the irony ever lost on them: free hamburgers are given out during the auction in a nearby cafe.

However you feel about eating meat and the treatment of cattle, this is a wonderful piece about a changing country and tradition vs. modernity.

Found Poetry: The Crab Nebula and the Sounds of Pulsars


MinnPost has a nifty feature where they pick a “website of the day” and highlight that site on their main page. Today’s site of the day is good stuff for the astronomy enthusiast – a link to NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day project. Today’s picture is of the Crab Nebula, which was formed in a supernova – a supernova so spectacular it was noted and recorded here on Earth – in 1054 AD! At the center of the nebula is a neutron star, a super-dense star. This one is actually a pulsar – it’s highly magentized, so it spins and throws off radiation. Now here’s the cool part: we can listen to pulsars. This radiation blip is like clockwork, so you can hear each rotation tick off as it turns. (You can hear some of them anyway; the pulsar at the center of the Crab Nebula rotates 30 times a second, so it sounds more like a constant whir.) It may not be the prettiest sound in the world, but just think about it: you’re listening to a star!

So here you go: The Crab Nebula, and the sounds of stars.

Found Poetry: Eyesight to the Blind


I heard this incredible story on All Things Considered today, about a man in his 80s, who has been blind for ten years, and how he has begun to see hallucinations. Essentially, his vision receptors are bored. They’re not getting signals from the eyes anymore, so they’re starting to make things up on their own. He sees some really beautiful stuff – nothing prophetic or anything like that, but these simple images that seem to give him a great deal of comfort.

Found Poetry: The TV Movie


There’s something about watching a movie you own on TV. Even though you own the movie, and you could watch it any time you want, you still sit through it when it’s on TV, enduring the ridiculous edits, commercial breaks, and the dreaded “pan and scan.” Why? I think it has to do with the understanding that something you love is also loved by many other people – enough people to warrant your loved film being broadcast on TV. What you get is this sort of communal love (the non-creepy kind) – you and the people who understand this little part of you curling up together on the couch and enjoying a good flick. Only your couch has really, really big cushions. There’s something deeply human about this kind of sharing, something very primal that goes back to campfires and tribal dances and sharing stories. It’s weird to think that these ancient urges revisit us in such strange ways, but it’s also a comfort to know that there are parts of our anatomy, soul, collective unconscious, whatever you’d like to call it – that live on and adapt to whatever the contemporary world throws at us.

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