Tag: <span>walt whitman</span>

Edward Carpenter Portraits of World Citizens.

Edward Carpenter and the Healing of Nations.

 Featured Image: Edward Carpenter (1844–1929), by Fred Holland Day (1864–1933). By F. Holland Day, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Edward Carpenter (1844-1929) whose birth anniversary we note on 29 August, was an English writer, educator and pacifist, socialist reformer. Carpenter came from a middle class intellectual family and studied at Cambridge University. As with some of his fellow students who were interested in philosophy and ideas, he was ordained in the Church of England hoping that its outlook and theology could be widened from the inside.  However, once inside, he realized that the broadening goal would take a long time.  Thus by 1874 he left the church for a new field − university extension courses − a program of night school education for the “working classes”.

Days with Walt Whitman.

Just as he was about to become a Church of England cleric in 1869, he discovered the poems of Walt Whitman which became the inspiration for his own poems as well as for an opening to a cosmic consciousness that Whitman manifested. As Carpenter wrote in Angels’ Wings “Whitman’s verse in its most successful passages, so magnificent in its effects, so democratic in feeling, so democratic in form, is more absolute in expression, more real in its content, burns brighter in the nearness of sunrise, and yet lies so near along to Nature and the innocent naivety of speech of a child, that some people are inclined to deny to it the quality of Art at all!” Whitman was his life-long model, and Carpenter spent time in the USA to be with Whitman, an experience which he recorded in a book Days with Walt Whitman.

Walt Whitman

The Laughing Philosopher: American poet Walt Whitman (1819–92). By George C. Cox (1851–1902)[1], Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Rabindranath Tagore.

Like Whitman, Carpenter was attracted to Indian philosophy and travelled to India. He became a friend of Rabindranath Tagore. His Indian travels and attraction to Indian thought he recorded in Adam’s Peak to Elephanta: Sketches in Ceylon and IndiaCarpenter kept up his interest in Indian thought through friendships in the then recently-created Theosophical Society.

Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore before 1941. By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

George Russell.

As others influenced by the Theosophical Society such as the Irish poet and agricultural reformer George Russell (best known by his pen name AE), Carpenter saw the need to improve rural life and to bring intellectual and cultural enlightenment to the rural areas. Thus he gave up formal university extension work and bought a farm which became a meeting place for discussions among many in the area − an early “back to the land movement”. He stressed using hand-made clothes, the non-killing and non-eating of animals, and the use of herbs for health.

George Russell

George William Russell. By by Cornelius Weygandt http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/19028 ==Used on== *w:en:George William Russell ==Licence== {{PD-Gutenberg}}.

The Intermediate Sex and Intermediate Types Among Primitive Folk.

He lived in a homosexual relationship with a farmer at a time when homosexuality was considered a criminal offense.  Carpenter wrote two books on homosexuality. For a long time these were the only books on the subject published by a major publisher: The Intermediate Sex and Intermediate Types Among Primitive Folk.

A New Spiritual Consciousness.

The Healing of Nations is his most important political book − a collection of essays for the most part published in newspapers and small journals written in late 1914 and early 1915 as World War I started. Carpenter had long held that a new age of fellowship was dawning in which social relations would be transformed by a new spiritual consciousness. His thinking on the outbreak of the war was close to that of Romain Roland and P. Kropotkin, both of whom he quotes at length.

Carpenter was close − though never a member − to the Independent Labour Party who’s 1914 Manifesto he quotes as its proposals were similar to his own:

” We hail our working-class comrades of every land. Across the roar of guns we send greetings to the German Socialists. They have laboured unceasingly to promote good relations with Britain, as we with Germany.  They are no enemies of ours, but faithful friends. In forcing this appalling crime upon the nations, it is the rulers, the diplomats, the militarists who have sealed their doom. In tears and blood and bitterness the greater Democracy will be born. With steadfast faith we greet the future; our cause is holy and imperishable, and the labour of our hands has not been in vain.”

Carpenter went on with his own call to action:

“Thus we have to push on with discernment. Always we have to remember that the wide, free sense of equality and kinship which lies at the root of Internationalism is the real goal. Always we have to press on towards that great and final liberation − the realization of our common humanity, the recognition of the same great soul of man slumbering under all forms in the heart of all races − the one guarantee and assurance of the advent of world peace.”

At a time when in England and France there are commemorations of the anniversaries of the 1914-1918 War, it is useful to recall that there were voices in opposition and persons like Carpenter who saw that an awareness of the spiritual dimension of each person was the basis for the healing of the nations.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Velimir Khlebnikov Rapprochement of Cultures.

Velimir Khlebnikov: The Futurian (1895-1922).

Featured Image: Velimir Khlebnikov. Commentary on the photo from the publishing house: “The photograph of V. Khlebnikov dates back to 1916 during his stay in Ukraine. In the photograph he was taken together with G. N. Petnikov, who kindly provided it to the publishing house at our request.” By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

My soul is a seer
Who has seen in the skies
The constellations beginning to rise.
And the thunderstorm fly like a bird.

So wrote the Russian poet Velimir Khlebnikov on the eve of his death in 1922. Khlebnikov was part of an active avant-garde circle of writers and painters known as the Cubo-Futurists, although Khlebnikov used the term “futurian” to separate himself from the urban-military-technological themes of Italian futurism represented by Marinettti. Khlebnikov had a strong sense of what Russia could bring to the modern world despite the hardships that the 1917 Revolution brought to the avant-garde. In 1920 he wrote:

Russia, I give you my divine
white brain. Be me. Be Khlebnikov.
I have sunk a foundation deep in the minds
of your people. I have laid down an axis,
I have built a house on a firm foundation.
We are Futurians.

The group produced most of its work from 1910 until the start of World War I and then was scattered by the War and the Revolution. The group which included the spiritually-inclined painter Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935) who was inspired by the paintings of Henri Matisse which existed in private collections in Moscow, but basically the group found its inspiration in the native art of Russian folklore – folklore which had a wisdom beyond intellect. In his essay “On Poetry” Khlebnikov wrote:

“If we think of the soul as split between the government of intellect and a stormy population of feelings, then incantations and beyondsense language are appeals over the head of the government straight to the population of feelings, a direct cry to the predawn of the soul.”

Malevich standing most probably in the Museum of Artistic Culture, Petrograd (1924). By Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Yet Khlebnikov does not fit into any one school or trend. As Paul Schmidt, the translator of his collective works points out “Taken as a whole, his work explores a unique and much broader terrain. In addition to poems and plays, stories and essays, he wrote political and artistic manifestos, essays on history, architecture, and social problems, literary theory, and journalistic pieces on current events. His passion for internationalism in politics and the arts prompted him to envisage a world-wide brotherhood of creative scientists, writers, and thinkers dedicated to understanding nature and to counteracting all the social evils fostered by political leaders.”

Khlebnikov, who died when he was 36, is in many ways a short-lived Walt Whitman whom he much admired.

“Attentively I read the springtime thoughts of the Divinity in designs on the speckled feet of tree-toads, Homer shaken by the awful wagon of a great war, the way a glass shakes at the passing of a wagon. I have the same Neanderthal skull, the same curving forehead as you, old Walt.”

Khlebnikov’s “O Garden of Animals” is directly influenced by Whitman:

“O Garden of Animals,
Where iron bars seem like a father who stops a bloody fight to remind his sons they are brothers; Where a clean-shaven soldier throws dirt at a tiger, all because the tiger is greater.  Where a camel knows the essence of Buddhism, and suppresses a Chinese smile; Where I search for new rhythms, whose beats are animals and men.”

Like Whitman, Khlebnikov was an innovator of language and form. At first sight, his poetry was considered anarchic and destructive of accepted rules. Khlebnikov wanted a clear break with the past. As he wrote in 1916 as the war ground on “Old Ones, you are holding back the fast advance of humanity; you are preventing the boiling locomotive of youth from crossing the mountain that lies in its path. We have broken the locks and see what your freight cars contain: tombstones for the young.”

The Laughing Philosopher: American poet Walt Whitman (1819–92). By George C. Cox (1851–1902)[1], Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

He saw himself as a creator of new forms that would penetrate below the surface of phenomena and give a new art that might change the human condition. As we look more deeply at his writings, we see the metaphysical structure of order behind the innovative lines. His break with the past was to discover the true laws of nature. As Paul Schmidt writes:

“This passionate belief in the sovereignty of a lawful nature gave Khlebnikov a great intellectual freedom in the pursuit of its boundless variety, in poetry and in the various languages he devised for poetry. It removed the constraints of common forms and opened words to the wide prospects enjoyed by natural objects, while making them subject to the deep scrutiny of analytic dissection. Khlebnikov was thus able to proceed to the work of the poet with the methodological precision of the scientist and to partake of the passion of both. To unite mankind into harmony with the universe – that was Khlebnikov’s vocation. He wanted to make Planet Earth fit for the future, to free it from the deadly gravitational pull of everyday lying and pretence, from the tyranny of petty human instincts and the slow death of comfort and complacency. He wanted to transform the World through the Word.”

Khlebnikov’s metaphysics are largely Taoist, more likely a rediscovery of the workings of yin and yang than a conscious influence of Chinese philosophy although he had a wide knowledge of Slavic and Indian mythology and a general interest in Asia. In a wry little poem of 1914, he describes concisely the underlying principle of his view of history, the idea of an equilibrium produced by the shift from positive to negative states:

The law of the see-saw argues
That your shoes will be loose or tight
That the hours will be day or night,
And that the ruler of earth the rhinoceros
Or us.

We find the same sense of the working of equilibrium in a section of “The Song of One Comes to Confusion”:

These tenuous Japanese shadows,
These murmuring Indian maidens,
Nothing sounds so mournful
As words at this last supper.
Death – but first life flashes past
Again: unknown, unlike, immediate.
This rule is the only rhythm
For the dance of death and attainment.

Death came too soon. 1913 had been a high point of cooperation among the Cubo-Futurists when they staged the opera “Victory over the Sun”. The music was by Mikhail Matiushin (1861 -1934) with the sets and costumes by Kazimir Malevich and the prologue by Khlebnikov. War, revolution, civil war and exile broke up these creative groups. Although they were unable to create the future they had envisaged, the ideas are powerful beacons and can still reach a wider audience. To unite mankind into harmony with the universe is still central to the world citizens goals.

See: Raymond Cooke. Velimir Khlebnikov (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987) and Paul Schmidt’s translations The King of Time (1985) and Collected Works (1987 and 1989) both published by Harvard University Press.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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Kenneth Rexroth Appeals

Rexroth: Rapprochement of Cultures.

Featured Image: He’s an American poet. Kenneth Rexroth Street. By Beatrice Murch (blmurch), CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Kenneth Rexroth.

The Association of World Citizens participates actively in the UNESCO-led International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022). The rapprochement of cultures requires dialogue at many levels.  We are at a time of major change in history.  The accelerating pace of change in the political, social, economic and cultural areas;  has created new opportunities for dialogue as the world is inexorably being transformed into a global society.

It is true that to an unprecedented degree people are meeting together in congresses, conferences, schools and universities all over the globe. However; it itself such meetings are not dialogues.  There is a need to reach a deeper level.  One approach is to look at writers;  who in their work drew on more than one culture and provided a bridge for meaningful dialogue;  and the rapprochement of cultures. One such writer is Kenneth Rexroth.

Kenneth Rexroth;  an American poet often considered a father figure to the Beat poets of the 1950 San Francisco scene;  was also a world citizen who blended the influences of Japan and China, of failed revolutionary movements like the Paris Commune, the Kronstadt sailors’ revolt in Russia; along with a deep sense of the beauty of nature.  He was largely self-taught;  having dropped out of secondary school.  He read widely but was always mistrustful of academic trends in poetry.

In the late 1960s when US universities tried to calm student agitation by having courses that were “relevant” to their interests; Kenneth Rexroth taught some courses at San Francisco State College.  Nevertheless;  he had a dim view of academic teaching.

“If a college student’s mother died, his girl got pregnant, he acquired a loathsome disease, or he decided to become a conscientious objector, would he go to his philosophy professor for advice?”

Taoist and Buddhist thought.

Rexroth’s model was Walt Whitman and his Leaves of Grass.  Whitman envisions “a social order whose essence is the liberation and universalization of selfhood…participants in a universal creative effort in which each discovers his ultimate individuation…Today we know that it is Whitman’s vision or nothing.”  Like Whitman, Rexroth stressed an ethical mysticism, citing other major influences.  “For better statements I refer you to the work of Martin Buber, D.T. Suzuki, Piotr Kropotkin, or for that matter, to the Gospels and the saying of Buddha, or to Lao Tze and Chung Tze.”

His references to D.T. Suzuki; who introduced Zen thought to the USA and to the Chinese Taoists Lao Tze and Chung Tze are a sign of his affinity to Taoist and Buddhist thought. His short summery of the essence of Taoism also reflected his philosophy of life:


The combinations

Of the world are unstable

By nature. Take it easy.


But Rexroth’s Taoism had an activist tone to it. As in many of the great Chinese and Japanese poems, the outer landscape corresponds to the inner one, the macrocosm to the microcosm:


My wife has been swimming in the breakers,

She comes up the beach to meet me, nude

Sparkling with water, singing high and clear

Against the surf.  The sun crosses

The hills and fills her hair, as it lights

The moon and glorifies the sea

And deep in the empty mountains melts

The snow of Winter and the glaciers

Of ten thousand  years.


Kenneth Rexroth especially appreciates the Mahayana Buddhist ideal of the bodhisattva.

A bodhisattva, in case you don’t know, is one who, at the brink of absorption into Nirvana, turns away with the vow that he shall not enter final peace until he can bring all other beings with him. 

And Kenneth Rexroth puts into poetic structure the words of the American Socialist leader Eugene Debs;  who had spent years in prison for his opposition to World War I:

While there is a lower class,

I am in it.  While there is

A criminal element,

I am of it.  Where there is

A soul in jail, I am not free.


Yet Kenneth Rexroth always rejected the notion that the arts should be subordinated to political demands.  He felt that lyrics that communicate genuine personal vision;  are ultimately more subversive than explicit propaganda. He called erotic love “one of the highest forms of contemplation”;  and he stressed its intensity in a Japanese style:

Making love with you

Is like drinking sea water.

The more I drink

The thirstier I become,

Until nothing can slake my thirst

But to drink the entire sea.


Rexroth was always enthusiastic about ethical world-affirming mysticism; always quick to encourage the joining of contemplation and community;

What is taken in 

In comtemplation is poured out

In love.



For Kenneth Rexroth’s early life until he moved to California in 1927 see his An Autobiographical Novel (New York: Doubleday, 1966)

Most of his poetry is in two collections: Collected Shorter Poems (New York: New Directions, 1966) and Collected Longer Poems (New York: New Directions, 1968)

For an analysis of his bridge-building efforts with Asian culture, see Morgan Gibson.

Revolutionary Rexroth: Poet of East-West Wisdom (Archon, 1986)


Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

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