Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Sweet Flag - the Whitman connection

The Sweet Flag - The Whitman connection

It is generally believed that Walt Whitman was a gay man. In his Calamus Cluster of poems, the subject manner is decidedly homoerotic, as in "We two boys together clinging, One the other never leaving..." [I'd] encourage you to read [them] for yourself and decide. Most gay men who read it easily identify with its seeingly timeless themes relevant to our feelings today.
The Calamus herb (also known as the "Sweet Flag" with official name "Acorus Calamus") has been considered a homoerotic symbol since ancient times...It derives it's name from a figure in Greek mythology, Kalamos, who turned into a reed out of grief for his young male lover Karpos who drowned. The Calamus herb also frequents pond and stream areas where closeted gay men of the nineteenth met clandestinely.

The Poems
When I read the Calamus Cluster in Leaves of Grass I was immediately struck by the overt homoerotic feelings throughout the individual poems. There are truly too many to post here, but here are the titles to some of the poems that spring forth as expressing Whitman's concealed nature. One phrase I loved to share since it fits my story, The Sweet Flag so perfectly.

A link to the poems is at the bottom of this post.

These I Singing in Spring
Check this beautiful reference to the calamus root.

(O here I last saw him that tenderly loves me, and returns again

never to separate from me,

And this, O this shall henceforth be the token of comrades, this

calamus-root shall,

Interchange it youths with each other! let none render it back!)

Some of the poems:

Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand
Not Heaving from My Ribb'd Breast Only
In Paths Untrodden

Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances

Go and read!

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