28 June 2009

Walt Whitman and Jonathan Ross

Picture of Walt Whitman
Two names you never expected to see in the same heading? Me neither. So listen while I tell the story.

Jonathan Ross is well known as one of the most active celebrity tweeters. He's also one of the best at it. He genuinely shares his enthusiasm and interests, and comes across really well as a funny, generous, garrulous, family-loving man. I've always quite liked him - especially compared to his atrocious brother - and that's grown into a real admiration, even if I still can't bring myself to watch his tv show.

A few weeks ago, he began an informal book club, based around Twitter, but now with its own forum site. It seems to have originated from a wish to share opinions on books - just another aspect of his compulsive need to communicate. And this week's book is Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. What a bizarre choice! Any poetry would be risky, but this is obviously a personal favourite, which he wants to share. I didn't know about the choice until this afternoon, and it's been a long time since I read any Whitman. But I'm really glad he's sent me back to look at it online. Keeping it simple, I looked at the probably overdone poem "I Hear America Singing". Oh, can't you hear William Carlos Williams there? And even Ez seems infected by that extreme openness to all kinds of voices.

Over at the forum, there's a distinctly mixed response to Whitman. Difficult and long, seem to be the key objections. For me, after my recent brush with Ez, there's little difficulty even if there is length - which is easy to overcome: just dip! And it's nice to sense a really wonderful person behind the poetry. Not a very academic conclusion, but still.

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