Poet-Chief: The Native American Poetics of Walt Whitman and Pablo Neruda
by James Nolan
A long-overdue comparative study of the American voice in hemispheric poetry, Poet-Chief brings cross-cultural and interdisciplinary considerations ... Show synopsis A long-overdue comparative study of the American voice in hemispheric poetry, Poet-Chief brings cross-cultural and interdisciplinary considerations to the work of Whitman and Neruda. Nolan proposes American Indian poetics as the model for the poets' own poetics. Whitman and Neruda wrote from an Americanist perspective. Both developed an oral, tribal poetics and assumed shamanic voices and personae in their major works, Leaves of Grass and Canto General. In addition they each presented the initiatory journey of a shaman in "The Sleepers" and "Alturas de Macchu Picchu." Despite the historical, cultural, and individual distinctions between their works, they both celebrate a tribal community and assume the functions of what Whitman calls the "poet-chief." These points of intersection between the poetics of Whitman, Neruda, and the American Indian clarify the nature of that broader voice identified as the native in American poetry. This fresh reading of two major American poets helps to break through the partitions that separate the native, English, and Spanish poetic responses to the American hemisphere.