Steve Stroupe and Elron Dawson




Steve Stroupe and Elron Dawson


Locust Fork, Black Warrior River

Verse 44

It is time to explain myself—let us stand up.
What is known I strip away,
I launch all men and women forward with me into the Unknown.
The clock indicates the moment—but what does eternity indicate?
We have thus far exhausted trillions of winters and summers,
There are trillions ahead, and trillions ahead of them.
Births have brought us richness and variety,
And other births will bring us richness and variety.
I do not call one greater and one smaller,
That which fills its period and place is equal to any.
Were mankind murderous or jealous upon you, my brother, my sister?
I am sorry for you, they are not murderous or jealous upon me,
All has been gentle with me, I keep no account with lamentation,
(What have I to do with lamentation?)
I am an acme of things accomplish'd, and I an encloser of things to be.
My feet strike an apex of the apices of the stairs,
On every step bunches of ages, and larger bunches between the steps,
All below duly travel'd, and still I mount and mount.
Rise after rise bow the phantoms behind me,
Afar down I see the huge first Nothing, I know I was even there,
I waited unseen and always, and slept through the lethargic mist,
And took my time, and took no hurt from the fetid carbon.
Long I was hugg'd close—long and long.
Immense have been the preparations for me,
Faithful and friendly the arms that have help'd me.
Cycles ferried my cradle, rowing and rowing like cheerful boatmen,
For room to me stars kept aside in their own rings,
They sent influences to look after what was to hold me.
Before I was born out of my mother generations guided me,
My embryo has never been torpid, nothing could overlay it.
For it the nebula cohered to an orb,
The long slow strata piled to rest it on,
Vast vegetables gave it sustenance,
Monstrous sauroids transported it in their mouths and deposited it with care.
All forces have been steadily employ'd to complete and delight me,
Now on this spot I stand with my robust soul.
Textual Analysis
Back in Section 23, Whitman exulted over the scientific achievements of his time: “Hurrah for positive science!” In that section, he told us he would “accept Reality and dare not question it, / Materialism first and last imbuing.” In these later sections, we see more clearly the implications of those earlier ...
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Textual Analysis


I'm always trying to see Alabama from different perspectives.

We've seen it from the air; we've seen it from the road; and, in this video, we see it from the water with Steve Stroupe and Elron Dawson.

One of my project partners Pierre and I met Steve while he was fishing the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River, and we were checking out the Swann Covered Bridge from the riverbank. We started chatting and hit it off. Not long after that, we all agreed to do things we had never done before: Steve would read a stanza from "Song of Myself," and Pierre and I would join him that night for a midnight turtle hunt.

Although we met Steve by chance, we deliberately put ourselves in the path of Elron, the second engineer on the coal barge, the Megan Parker.

We didn't plan much of what we filmed for either shoot, so I'm a bit overwhelmed by so many accidental parallels with the poetry itself.

In Verse 44, Whitman writes about birth and evolution. And when we were turtle hunting with Steve, he caught a baby prehistoric fish -- a gar. Standing in the middle of the river, in almost complete darkness, looking at that fish, felt like being transported way, way back in time.

In this same verse, Whitman writes about recognizing the steps of evolution but embodying the present. In the video, we emerge from the water in the creek and end up on this long, meditative float with Elron, where there's not much to do but be present, watching the water and listening to the poem.

I'm not sure how this keeps happening, but we'll take every happy accident we get.

By Jennifer Crandall, as told to writer Liz Hildreth.

If you want to learn more about our midnight fishing adventure, Steve has the experience captured in a great Facebook post called Riverslumming in Blount County, Alabama.