I Hear America Singing by Walt Whitman and I, Too by Langston Hughes

Excellent choice from the Poem-a-Day folks for American Independence Day. I’ve always loved how broad and open Whitman’s love of America seems, inclusive of a variety of people.

Reading it this time, I was struck by how all the carolers are workmen, doing different kinds of building/fixing kinds of careers: mechanic, carpenter, mason, boatman, shoemaker, wood-cutter, mother, wife, girl sewing,  Not a lawyer, politician, or CEO among them. Which suggests, that for Whitman, the song of America is that of the workers, the “common” people. Not the rich, not the owners, but the makers.

It pairs beautifully with “I, too” by Langston Hughes, as, of course, Mr. Hughes intended, pointing out the holes in Whitman’s poem: the Americans he didn’t hear singing. On my list of someday projects is a collection of poems that all riff off of this one, a collection of the songs Whitman didn’t hear, a show of how the songs have changed throughout the history of our country.