One’s-self I sing, a simple separate person,
Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse.
Of physiology from top to toe I sing,
Not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy for the Muse, I say
the Form complete is worthier far,
The Female equally with the Male I sing.
Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,
Cheerful, for freest action form’d under the laws divine,
The Modern Man I sing.
Behavior lawless as snow-flakes, words simple as grass, uncomb’d
head, laughter, and naivete,
Slow-stepping feet, common features, common modes and emanations
— Song of Myself by Walt Whitman
Thinking about my Brooklyn neighborhood and community this morning with the most celebrated poetry collection Leaves of Grass, originally typeset and self-published in the neighborhood in 1855 by our most celebrated poet. Whenever we get buried in snow it’s as if the whole of life along with the landscape becomes somehow a timeless snapshot.
Whitman’s meditation also informs me on the recent debate on the artist’s role in community. The stark division between “I” and “We” that Scott and others would make is a false one.
This summer the street in front of our house was unofficial headquarters for the block party. The neighborhood has allowed the wacky artists to assimilate, or perhaps more true, the artists have sought out the neighborhood as the fundamental element of their art.
Every morning kids with parents in tow plan their walk to school so that they can pass the casual art installation in our front yard. Their brief discussions can be more insightful than any “critical” appraisal could ever be.
Spencer, the Horse has weathered the seasons well. Recently he was almost free of the snow pile that has had him buried for weeks. He is standing on a pile of unused plastic packaged Yellow Page directories that recently littered the neighborhoods with their useless waste. Spencer is mascot for the campaign for yellow tags on ironwork fences to stop the indiscriminate and unwanted distribution of advertising circulars.