July 21, 2014: Mannahatta

Dear readers,

I learned many things in the past couple weeks, and hope to use the ol’ Monday’s Verse machine to catalog some of my discoveries. In 1921, not too too long after Walt Whitman (1819-1892) finalized his complete Leaves of Grass, Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand paid homage to his title “Mannahatta” with their short film, “Manhatta.” I knew Sheeler primarily as a painter, but I guess he was also a photographer. Strand was a photographer (I saw some of his prints in the same museum as the video piece), too, but I don’t know much about either artist. Pretty sure this video piece was up in the Centre Pompidou, and it made for good viewing–look, you can see it here!:


Don’t worry, your speakers are working fine–it’s a silent film. Now what would be best is to view the film with James Garner doing a voice-over of the Whitman poem, which is shorter than many of his praise poems. But in lieu of that, you can read it yourself, below. And look how many diverse people and things make it into his list of credits! His optimism inspires me. -ed.


I was asking for something specific and perfect for my city, 
Whereupon lo! upsprang the aboriginal name.

Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid, sane, 
   unruly, musical, self-sufficient,
I see that the word of my city is that word from of old, 
Because I see that word nested in nests of water-bays,
Rich, hemm’d thick all around with sailships and 
   steamships, an island sixteen miles long, solid-founded,
Numberless crowded streets, high growths of iron, slender, 
   strong, light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies,
Tides swift and ample, well-loved by me, toward sundown, 
The flowing sea-currents, the little islands, larger adjoining
   islands, the heights, the villas,
The countless masts, the white shore-steamers, the lighters, 
   the ferry-boats, the black sea-steamers well-model’d,
The down-town streets, the jobbers’ houses of business, the 
   houses of business of the ship-merchants and money-
   brokers, the river-streets,
Immigrants arriving, fifteen or twenty thousand in a week, 
The carts hauling goods, the manly race of drivers of horses,
   the brown-faced sailors,
The summer air, the bright sun shining, and the sailing 
   clouds aloft,
The winter snows, the sleigh-bells, the broken ice in the 
   river, passing along up or down with the flood-tide or 
The mechanics of the city, the masters, well-form’d, 
   beautiful-faced, looking you straight in the eyes,
Trottoirs throng’d, vehicles, Broadway, the women, the 
   shops and shows,
A million people--manners free and superb--open voices--
   hospitality--the most courageous and friendly young 
City of hurried and sparkling waters! city of spires and masts! 
City nested in bays! my city!

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