Walt Whitman is arguably one of the greatest poets of all time. In my opinion, he is certainly the greatest ever produced by this country. When, as a misfit high schooler, I was first exposed to his works, I quickly identified with this wild-looking and rebellious 'outsider' who shocked 1850's society by daring to write about the celebration of the human body, of sensuality, of the human spirit, and of the very substance that defined the young American nation. In the course of my life, I have often gone back to Whitman's opus, "Leaves of Grass" for inspiration, for solace, for just simply beautiful writing.
And so, the first time I saw the Levi's Jeans commercial using "Pioneers! O Pioneers!", I was more than a bit outraged. How dare they use these classic words to sell blue jeans! How could they commercialize such a great literary work?
However, it did send me back to reread the 'Pioneers! O Pioneers!' excerpt one more time. And this got me to rethink my initial reaction.
Poetry of any kind is a tough sell in the modern world. So maybe the jeans will sell the poetry instead of the other way around. Maybe those beautiful words will inspire a whole bunch of young people to GOOGLE them for the entire poem. And perhaps some of those kids will be inspired to take on the entirety of "Leaves of Grass". And maybe, just maybe, some nerdy, misfit high schooler will even go the extra distance and read "O Pioneers!" by Willa Cather, the truly great American novel inspired by the Whitman poem.
So COME MY TAN-FACED CHILDREN, FOLLOW WELL IN ORDER, GET YOUR WEAPONS READY;
HAVE YOU YOUR PISTOLS? HAVE YOU YOUR SHARP EDGED AXES?
HAVE YOU YOUR GOOGLE?
A NEWER, MIGHTIER WORLD AWAITS!