I was most gratified last week to discover the following, giving me some validation for my believe in poetry based on the body and sensate experience as spiritual as well as corporeal;  I will be using this in my next Sunfire Writers Workshop at Fremont Correction Facility.

“The poet writes the history of his own body.” Thoreau

 American poet Walt Whitman, was a nurse in the civil war. I quote from the book, Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer

“For Walt Whitman, the Civil War was about the body. The crime of the Confederacy, Whitman believed, was treating Blacks as nothing but flesh, selling and buying them like pieces of meat. Whitman’s revelation, which he had for the first time at a New Orleans slave auction, was the body and mind are inseparable. To whip a man’s body is to whip a man’s soul.

“This is Whitman’s central poetic idea. We do not have a body, we are a body, Although our feelings feel immaterial, they actually begin in the flesh. Whitman introduces his only book of poems, Leaves of Grass, by imbuing his skin with his spirit, “the aroma of my armpits finer than prayer.”

 /strong>Was somebody asking to see the soul?
See, your own shape and countenance. . .
Behold, the body includes and is the meaning, the main
Concern, and includes, and is the soul.

“Whitman’s fusion of body and soul was a revolutionary idea, as radical as his free-verse form. At the time, (Civil War era) scientists believed that our feelings came from the brain and that the body was just a lump of inert matter. But Whitman believed that our mind depended upon the flesh. He was determined to write about our “form complete.”

“This is what makes his poetry so urgent: the attempt to wring “beauty out of sweat,” the metaphysical soul out of fat and skin.”


Many times I have said, Poetry is a full body experience. Body, Mind Spirit. Poetry is how our feelings talk in images and we share those words with family, friends, and others.

DISCUSSION: then Your experience?


About Ciletti

Jim Ciletti, an award winning poet, filmmaker, and author, is the 2010-2012, Poet Laureate of the Pikes Peak region, and for 41 years, poet-in-residence for the Orme School Fine Arts Festival. Jim gives many workshops on the writing and performance of poetry, and makes poetry house calls to create personal poetry events. Ciletti loves everything Italian, including cooking for family and friends, and loves to plant garlic, make homemade wine, and eating peaches and plums. "Everyday is Christmas, but you don't always get everything you ask for. Sometimes more. Poetry celebrates life."
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Validation

  1. I agree with Whitman’s fusion of mind and soul annd body. I also like your closing comments about poetry being a full body experience. That’s why I love the challenge of putting my experiences or ideas into poetic expression, laboring to birth just the right words to declare poignantly the emotion, sense or behavior my body and spirit is feeling or has felt. That’s why I also love reading poetry others have written, for I gain insight from the success of another for accomplishing this most difficult thing–a poem!
    Thanks for sharing your insights with us.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s