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For Tuesday (4/10)

We haven’t quite finished talking about “When Lilacs . . . .”  But, we can already see some of the issues and questions that the poem raises about death, absence, memory, and loss.  Hopefully, you can already start to see and understand some of the poetic strategies that Whitman deploys to tackle these big issues and questions.

If Whitman’s poem sets out a poetic strategy for dealing with collective loss and its aftermath, how durable is this strategy?  Can Whitman’s poem equip us for confronting similar historical ruptures and disasters?

To begin answering these questions, let’s compare Whitman’s elegy and its strategies to contemporary poets’ efforts to reckon poetically with national trauma.

Browse through this online anthology of 9-11 poems.  (The poems are located in the “Online Resources/Selected Individual Poems” of the Library of Congress page.) Find a couple that you think are successful or a couple that seem to speak to “When Lilacs Last . . ..”  Using Whitman as a referent, what kinds of similar and/or different approaches to collective loss do you see in your selected poems?  What do these poems help us to see about Whitman’s poem?  And what does Whitman’s poem help us to see about these poems?

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