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“Walt Whitman’s iPad” (essay) at Poetry Northwest - May 11, 2015

My thanks to Aaron Barrell at Poetry Northwest for publishing my new essay, “Walt Whitman’s iPad,” this past weekend. The piece takes a recent advertisement for Apple’s iPad Air—and one where the audio consists primarily of Robin Williams’s reciting Whitman’s “O Me! O Life!” (1867)—as an opportunity to answer the following questions: would Whitman mind hawking cellular doo-dads? Would he celebrate or scorn social media? And how do we negotiate between recorded minutiae (often, the stuff of poetry) and the images that come Tumblring or Tweeting through our feed (often, the stuff of distraction). It also surveys Whitman’s other “endorsements” (Starbucks coffee, “Blades O’Grass” cigars), identifies the “real” Jack Keating (from Dead Poets Society), and close reads “O Me! O Life!”—all before imagining just what Whitman would do if someone put an iPad in his hand.

Derek Mong