Whitman's 'Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking' as performed by Basil Bunting
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Amy King, Julia Bloch, and Tom Pickard — before a live audience — joined Al Filreis to discuss Basil Bunting’s 1977 performance of Walt Whitman’s “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking.” On that occasion, a reading at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Bunting read poems by Thomas Wyatt, Ezra Pound (Cantos I and II), Edmund Spenser, and Louis Zukofsky, as well as this poem by Whitman. The full reading of “Out of the Cradle” runs some nineteen minutes. The group chose to focus on the first two stanzas, with a glance, late in the discussion, at the remarkable final passage: “My own songs, awaked from that hour; / and with them the key, the word up from the waves, / The word of the sweetest song, and all songs.” Although we don’t deal specifically with the significance of “word up from the waves” until the end, the discussion as it evolved can be said generally to be about the urge Whitman recalls feeling as a young man as a keenly discerned compulsion to “translate” longing into language — words of the sort that the sea suggests with its incessance, its bodily formlesness, its blank-slateness (as Tom Pickard beautifully suggests), its dependability.