A Brief Post Against Yawping

Accept this offering of a few broken-up lines from Song of Myself.

"I CELEBRATE myself; And what I assume you shall assume;
For every atom belonging to me, as good belongs to you. 
I loafe and invite my Soul...

The atmosphere is not a perfume—it has no taste of the distillation—it is odorless;
It is for my mouth forever—I am in love with it...

The smoke of my own breath...
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing of blood and air through my lungs...

I and this mystery, here we stand.
Clear and sweet is my Soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not my Soul."

Walt Whitman


I am not the sort of person who yawps, and I would never ever ever sound a barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world. Yes, I am tamed. I am translatable.

And so, for that matter, was our wonderfully hirsute Mr. Whitman, who along with the Transcendentalists he emulated, grew up in a garden but insisted on being seen as wild.

He was a man to whom all theories, myths, gods, bibles, accounts, and genealogies were true, "without exception". He was sure that no age, civilization, or morality was better than another, but was still willing to make moral and aesthetic judgments against those he disliked (he called spiritualism a "poor, cheap, crude humbug", which of course, it is).

People who do that are bitches. If someone you know behaves like that, you call him passive aggressive. Or Californian.

When Walt Whitman was yawping, or singing the body electric, or expressing whatever bold and barbaric ejaculation he chose, he was doing so in the Unitarian northeast. His yawps might have caused some newspaper controversy, but that is no controversy at all. Which he would have known, having been a reporter. Writing the stuff he did (which o heart! seems so bold) in Brooklyn and New Jersey, just south of and just after the Transcendentalists, is like Allen Ginsberg writing in New York many years later. So brave! Yes, as brave as any fashionable yawper could be, regardless of anti-sodomy or anti-yawping laws. Both were busy saying the right things while surrounded by the right people.

Here's a rule of thumb that I use in deciding whether a maker is worth any time. I pass it on to you now, to use in your reading and your writing: if a man spends all his time talking about how awesome he is, and not about how awesome the world is, his work is some slippy shit, and will bring you down.

And isn't that the current ethos? I celebrate myself and sing myself. But when all your world is you, then yawping from all the roofs of the world is utterly unimpressive. I dare to rewrite a line, and by this act ask you to forsake Whitman and his friends forever. Wouldn't you rather read a volume of poems that began with the line "I sing the world electric"?

If you hear Whitman, or Ginsberg, or Lana del Rey, or one of your beautiful young friends sounding a barbaric yawp from the roofs of your world, for God's sake, throw a shoe at him.


  1. Thank you good sir. This made me laugh today when I really needed it. :)
    Yes. I think Oscar Wilde was also good at the yawping. Which is why I never could get more than maybe 80 pages into the picture of Dorian Grey. I was overcome with the urge to throw a shoe at him.


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