Song of the Self – Self Promotion and Walt Whitman

Song of Myself – self promotion and Walt Whitman

“The public is a thick skinned beast and you have to keep whacking away at its hide to let it know you’re there.”  Walt Whitman

When did writers start having to be such shameless self promoters?  A new phenomena brought on by merging publishing houses, corporate greed, social media?  

Walt Whitman was a master of singing his own praises in the mid-1800.  I’m sure he wasn’t first writer to toot his own horn.  But I love Whitman, so his endorsements of himself are particularly interesting to me.  

Forbes, our public library here in Northampton, MA, has a CD, titled 32 American Poets.  Each section starts with a brief intro to the poet followed by a few poems.  My favorite, by far, is section 12, Walt Whitman, a selection from Leaves of Grass.  For me Whitman’s poetry has always seemed an antidote for the ugly American syndrome.  On the CD’s intro to Whitman I heard the scandalous news that he was a tireless self promoter.  His tactics to become widely read included reviewing his own work without crediting himself as author of the review, getting himself prosecuted for obscenity on purpose for the publicity the charge would garner, getting Emerson to write him private letters which he then published to show he was admired by the already famous man. 

I repeat the quote from Walt, the man who wrote some of the most beautifully inclusive, people-loving, people celebrating poetry I’ve ever read.  “The public is a thick skinned beast and you have to keep whacking away at its hide to let it know you’re there.”

I, for one, am happy Walt kept whacking, otherwise the beautiful gold leafed edition of Leaves of Grass that I keep in my bedroom probably wouldn’t exist. 

Not sure I’ll do my own reviews, but if anyone wants to write admiring letters, I’m open to receiving and publishing them.  As for obscenity charges, in 2011, I probably wouldn’t go there.


About sallybellerose

Author of The Girls Club, Bywater Press, spring 2011 writer gardener booklover
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8 Responses to Song of the Self – Self Promotion and Walt Whitman

  1. Meryl C says:

    I am happy to write you fan letters. I’m a fan. So happy to see that your book is on Amazon! Yay!

  2. I sing a song of Sally Bellrose whose stories are divine! I loved hearing you read at the Forbes and to not only hear about but deeply feel the tender relationship between the young girl and her gandmother. I can’t wait to read the whole book!

    • Thanks for the praise, Carolyn and thanks for going to the reading and reading the blog. We’re so lucky to be in this community where we can interact with each others work. Always love seeing you in the audience or at the mike and being in the audience with you.

  3. Loser says:

    He’s not talking about himself, don’t you see? The title Uncle Walt wants us all to see for ourselves is ‘Song of Yourself.’

    • Hi. I agree, WW was a generous loving soul who celebrated all people. But he found no shame in self promotion and practiced what he preached ie: Sang of Himself as well as others. A beautiful thing, Thanks for reading the piece.

  4. jSeunnasepp says:

    I am also a big Whitman fan.

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