Thursday, May 31, 2007

Wesley and Walt and Madness and Joy

Happy Birthday wishes to Walt Whitman and Wesley Willis from here and into the Great Beyond.


Wesley Willis was a Chicago musician. He used to hang out at Borderline when I worked there, making music on his hand-held keyboard, putting together the Wesley Willis Fiasco and selling his art. He was also famous for head butts, but I refused them -- insisting that I had way too much responsibility to be walking around with the headache I was sure to receive. Because of my refusal, I got hugs -- and Wesley Willis gave the best hugs.


Once, he gave me a very scary poem about war with a drawing, but it seems to have vaporized in one of my cross-country moves. Wesley died in 2003 -- which really was a shit-can year for big, strong men.


The drawing above is by Wesley. You can see more of his art on his website.


And as for Walt Whitman .... well, we all know Walt Whitman. I sing the body electric. Here is a passage by the Granddaddy himself from One Hour to Madness and Joy:


ONE hour to madness and joy!
O furious! O confine me not!
(What is this that frees me so in storms?
What do my shouts amid lightnings and raging winds mean?)
******************
O something unprov’d! something in a trance!
O madness amorous! O trembling!
O to escape utterly from others’ anchors and holds!
To drive free! to love free! to dash reckless and dangerous!
To court destruction with taunts—with invitations!
To ascend—to leap to the heavens of the love indicated to me!
To rise thither with my inebriate Soul!
To be lost, if it must be so!
To feed the remainder of life with one hour of fulness and freedom!
With one brief hour of madness and joy.


7 comments:

twit said...

Superb pic of the old wordsmith.

JoeC said...

Every time I see a picture of Whitman, it hits me that he looks nothing like the author I imagine in my head whenever his work is read...

La Sirena said...

Twit and Joe -- I really liked this picture, as well. It's funny that you say that Joe. I'm not sure I can ever remember reading Whitman without knowing what he looked like, He sure did seem to be one of the more photographed man of his era, so to me he looks exactly like Whitman -- so much so that when I see boxes of those pseudo cross-stitched Whitman chocolate samplers, I picture the bearded poet. Also, his poems are rather ecstatic and sensual and he has that ecstasies of sensuality look about him -- especially the eyes and the twitch of the lip -- and he's always posing and looking like he wished he had something better to do with his hands.

"Only the theme I sing, the great and strong-possess’d Soul, eludes not;

One’s-self must never give way—that is the final substance—that out of all is sure;"

Jane said...

Funny, I look at his picture & hear...GRANDFATHER,GRANDFATHER...

La Sirena said...

I did notice once that Heidi's grandfather looked like a crabby WW. (Our family has a serious Heidi problem.)

JoeC said...

I guess it's because I had to read some of his poems in elementary school, and there were no pictures in the textbook, and I just made up an image of a much younger, more modern guy that stuck with me for years before I read any more Whitman and saw the "old Whitman" photos. First impressions are hard to get rid of...

Butchieboy said...

I love Wesley Willis.