Walt Whitman: Poems

The Secret Song: An Exploration of Latent Homoeroticism in Section 11 of Song of Myself

Song of Myself is a poem of bold declarations that egotistically assert Walt Whitman's place and purpose in the context of a world of immense scope and romantically instilled vigor. And yet located within this chaotic unfurling of identity there is one piece of the poem that stands out as a conspicuously reserved, reflective fragment. This moment of breath in Whitman's otherwise energetic tirade is located at the opening of section 11, which deals with Whitman's repressed homosexual longings. The quiet repetition and connected lines of questioning in this section flow together to create a latent persistence to the sexual urges being described. Towards the end of the section Whitman introduces erotic imagery and a careful interplay of terse and soft, sensual sounds to convey a striking edge to his desires. These desires are not expressed in first person, but instead they manifest themselves into imaginative action in the mind of the section's female character. Thus the poet manages to weave vivid sensuality into the section while removing himself from the scene in order to create a poetic puppet show of his own sexual dilemma.

The repetition in the first three lines of the section serves to immediately establish its separateness...

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