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‘Good Verse, Bad Verse, and Chaos’

2 10 0

I love reading Sarah Ruden, and I’ve enjoyed the attention given to Walt Whitman in these pages over the last few days.

Ruden gives the poet the back of her hand for being championed by — angels and ministers of grace, defend us! — intellectuals and professors, a poet “whom ordinary Americans most reviled (inasmuch as they noticed him) in the days when the genre was democracy’s main artistic expression, and ignored with the most determination thereafter.” Rather than Walt Whitman, We the People preferred more wholesome stuff: “It was Whittier’s ‘Barefoot Boy,’ ‘Barbara Frietchie,’ and Snow-Bound, Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha and Evangeline, and other nostalgic, patriotic, romantic, and moralistic poems that were read at firesides into the opening West and incorporated into readers for primary schools. Leaves of Grass would have fallen away had not professors like Mark Edmundson championed it.”

I am enchanted by the fact that Ruden took time between publishing translations of Apuleius and Petronius to speak up for American popular taste and to put those pointy-headed intellectuals back in their place. The last time I looked at a list of bestselling poetry books it was in the 1990s, and the list........

© National Review