With partial apologies to Walt Whitman

This is the not the first time my family has crossed paths with Walt Whitman.

In my family’s lore, my grandfather would tell a story about how his grandfather (a judge in Camden prior to the turn of the century) once sent the famous and highly debated poet to jail for public intoxication. His grandmother and her friends would cross the street if they saw ole Walt stumbling their way, drunk as a skunk, for they did not want to be on the same side of the road as he passed. Their recollections, as retold by my grandfather, were singularly unimpressed with the man who has been called “America’s poet”.

Even in death, my mother’s family cannot escape some sort of proximity to the poet. Harleigh Cemetery, where my maternal grandparents, their siblings, and both sides of my grandfather’s family have family plots, is also the resting place for Walt Whitman. When I visit the family gravesite, I can see the Whitman mausoleum about one hundred and fifty yard away hidden in the trees that have grown over it. The only way out is to go past it. You can see the slots of the Whitman family behind a heavy barred gate with little knickknacks, flowers, and other minutiae left outside.

So it was less of a surprise when I found out that some irksome commercial was using one of his poems to sell jeans.* Initially, I simply ignored this annoying ad campaign but it was hard avoid catching sight of it, a plethora of pretentiousness and artsy-fartsy high school fantasy imagery. But once I wondered which poetry treasure was savaged in the name of corporate America, I found out that an old family rival was back.

(“So, Walt,” I said, leaning back in my computer chair, fingers forming an evil finger steeple. “It’s on again, I see?” The only thing to make it more complete would be a twirling of a moustache and a cat sitting on my lap to slowly pet.)

So, with partial apologies to Walt Whitman, I have written my own version of “Pioneers! O pioneers!” out of contempt for stupid commercialism, my own love of parody, and of course, to spite Walt Whitman in the grave.

I hope you enjoy it.

Librarians! O librarians!
    COME, my pasty white children,
    Shelve well in order, get your carts ready,
    Have you your patience? Have you your sharped-edged wits?
    Librarians! O librarians!

    For we cannot story time here
    We must shush my darlings, we must bear the weight of weeding,
    We the well read masses, all the curious on us depend,
    Librarians! O librarians!

    O you grads, MLS grads,
    So, full of questions, full of many tweets and Facebooks,
    Plain I see you MLS grads, see you scrounging for the jobs,
    Librarians! O librarians!

    Have the elders admins retired?
    Do they sneer and end their shift, wearied over by years of policies?
    We update the eternal catalog, and the MARC and the LOC,
    Librarians! O librarians!

    All the practices left behind
    We debouch upon a newer information world, a 2.0 world
    Tools and websites the urls we collect, world of texts and the computers,
    Librarians! O librarians!

    We libraries steady growing
    Down the spinners, through the stacks, up the bookcases steep
    Reviewing, buying, cataloging, shelving as we go about the days,
    Librarians! O librarians!

There are certainly more stanzas, but I only did as much as the stupid commercial did. Maybe some day I’ll finish it out, but I think it’ll get lost at some point.


* I refuse to link to the ad because I despise it SO much. It’s on YouTube and there are enough clues here so as to find it on your own.

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