Walt Whitman on contradiction;

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself”

I’ll admit, I don’t know the context of Whitman’s quote nor do I remember the specifics of Nate Pritts’ lecture that led to this quote, because it simply says that quote in my notes. What I do remember, is thinking that people are inherently flexible beings. Our views might change from one moment to the next, and as we write a poem, we might discover that its original meaning, intent and narrative might not fit the poem we are attempting to forge.

The very tone of the Whitman quote is almost nonchalant, unwieldy, and non-academic for such an accomplished poet. He does not seem to be rooted in reservations about contradicting himself, rather simply accepting the fact that people will be flexible beings whose views change over time.

I found that while writing “미안해/I’m sorry” that its explorations of alienation from one’s birth culture, language or family aim to explore bigger themes such as the intersectionality of language.

Thinking back to Whitman’s quote, his statement on one contradicting him or herself also refers to how one should be flexible to embrace changing meanings of their art, which I thought was interesting.

2 Replies to “Walt Whitman on contradiction;”

  1. DongWon,
    I really appreciate this idea about poetic flexibility, because while I believe that poems are fixed in time and (sorry) context, they are also able to be revised and changed based on the poet’s wishes. I think that contradicting oneself doesn’t necessarily mean that the poet is unclear, but rather that the human mind is such a confusing, multifaceted place that it is easy to get lost in the inner workings of it.

  2. Nicole and DongWon,

    I think the quote is also an acceptance of humanity. Humanity is capricious in nature, and people often contradict themselves. So while the quote has poetic and literary meaning, I think it also serves as a form of self-acceptance.

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