At the beginning of seminar this past Wednesday, we discussed Walt Whitman’s poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, which we were assigned on Monday to read and analyze on our own. I was glad we went over the poem together due to the fact that interpreting poetry is something I have a considerable amount of trouble with. We covered things such as how Whitman was writing during a period of romanticism. This was something I was unaware of when reading Crossing Brooklyn Ferry alone, but once informed, I seemed to have a better understanding of the poem. It turns out that this time period is known for giving rise to the middle class and also nationalism. In addition, the idea of the individual was new to America, which brought along questions such as “Who am I in the world?” Another piece of information that was brought to my attention was that Walt Whitman was a gay man. Professor Kahan’s statement about Whitman defying stereotypes as far as physical appearance goes, but making it more apparent through his writing, was something I found to be extremely interesting. It seems that Whitman’s imagery, and descriptive scenery is something that could give his sexual orientation away. I certainly would never have been able to draw this conclusion on my own.
Although we did cover some things that had not crossed my mind, we also went over things that I had picked up on when reading it myself. For one, we talked about how Whitman, through wonderful usage of imagery, turned something that is probably seen by so many as dreadful (taking the ferry) into something pleasant and interesting. Also Whitman’s use of repetition was something I had noticed when reading. This included the word “you,” in order to make everything more personal. Even though I came into class knowing these things, it was nice going over them because it showed me that I had done a decent job analyzing this poem.