Serpent Drum Reference Image Gloss


Walt Whitman was well read, despite the fact he didn’t recieve any formal education beyond his youth. He had knowledge of medicine and religion among other things. I selected this because I didn’t understand the context.

Walking the teokallis, spotted with gore from the stone and knife-beating the serpent skin drum;

Teocallis is another word for Aztec temple.   (p80)

If the word is broken down then it’s [Nahuatl : tetlgodcallihouse.]

I didn’t understand the reference to the serpent-skin drum so I did a quick look up on Aztec culture and found information regarding the creation myth of the Aztecs. From that myth, the relevant portion is as follows:

Quetzalcoatl was one of the four gods created by  the great god Ometeotl.  Quetzalcoatl ricked the god of the underworld (Mictlantechutli) to bring back the bones of the dead into the rela world.  Quetzalcoatl gave his blood to the bones to create new life. In gratitude, people were sacraficed in the name of Quetzalcoatl (serpent skin beast).


Pedro for September 15

When I attended class on last Tuesday I did a bit of thinking and this post is what came from it:

Someone one once told me there is a difference between a scientific journal and a poem.  A scientific journal is meant to be interpreted in one way while a poem can be looked at from numerous angles.  Most of the readings I do as part of my academic requirements or even leisure are more along the technical or scientific domains, not poetry. Poetry has no rules or any conventions of sorts but it remains a highly respected and admired method of communication and art. I acknowledge that writing is an art form in itself but I didn’t treat the reading as such. I have to read Whitman differently.

When I read “Song of myself”, I wasn’t reading between the lines. I read it as a text book which basically meant I missed many of the things that we would discuss in class.

The context of Song of Myself was is also relevant, literature cannot be analyzed in a vacuum and the time period has significance for any piece of text or literature. When Whitman pokes at religion on p. 53, I didn’t realize the risk Whitman is taking.

“Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touched from;

The scent of these arm-pits is aroma finer than prayer.”

In the 1850s, religion still played a dominant role in American society. His fearlessness in expressing his thoughts and sexuality is one of the reasons he is one of the most prominent poets of American History. This kind of writing is frowned upon by the church and he could have met many misfortunes if he published his work with his name on cover.

When a fellow student read a portion of the poem so passionately, Whitman’s words really came alive. I was able to interpret the message in the poem better and the whole class became excited Whitman’s work was meant written to be read aloud, not quietly hiding under the stars.

The final valuable thing I drew from the class discussion was the amount of nuance and word play in his writing. Only someone really analyzing the poem deeply could come to appreciate these things and would able to identify the hidden gems in his sentences. Being part of this course and its collaborative nature means no stone will be left un turned. Many parts of the poem make various references to French expressions and his personal life. I found an online version of the poem and ran many of the terms through search engines and comparing that with the footnotes.  The poem starts with I and ends with you, I wouldn’t have noticed unless Professor Gold pointed that out.

Many of the things in this post here were drawn from class discussion; in subsequent readings I should be able to draw some of these things on my own. This is part of the learning process and reflection helps facilitate it. Whitman’s writing is a different kind of puzzle, one I am not use to and while I am slightly frustrated a first, I can take a different hammer to it.


Song of Pedro


REALISM is mine, my miracles,
Take all of the rest — take freely — I keep
but my own — I give only of them,
I offer them without end — I offer them to you
wherever your feet can carry you, or your
eyes reach.

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