Madness & Joy is an homage to Walt Whitman, taken from his poem “One Hour to Madness and Joy.” I’m a huge Whitman fan.
If I were the slightest bit musical I’d put these lyrics to a song like “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” (Lead Belly, sung by Nirvana), a song at the heart of my novel.
Whitman seems to join Kobain’s song in his poem (“When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”), speaking of homages in the pines…
And how shall I deck my song for the large sweet soul that has gone? //
Sing on, sing on you gray-brown bird,
Sing from the swamps, the recesses, pour your chant from the bushes,
Limitless out of the dusk, out of the cedars and pines.
Sing on dearest brother, warble your reedy song,
Loud human song, with voice of uttermost woe.
O liquid and free and tender!
O wild and loose to my soul…
Once, when I worked at an Oxfam bookshop, a customer with long wild hair walked in. “Oh, excuse me,” I said, pulling a leaf from his locks. “You had a leaf in your hair.”
“Oh what a pity.” He said.
“It’s no problem.” I shrugged.
“No, I mean it’s a pity that you think I oughtn’t to have a leaf in my hair.”
That man was Whitman incarnate, in his genteel Oxfordian way.
My protagonist Chloe strives to channel the great poet too, with leaves in her hair, bare feet, pouring her chant from the bushes and the pines to her dearest brothers. To celebrate her body, the song of herself, mankind, her “inebriate soul,” and the blessed hour – any hour that inspires madness & joy.
In my novel, it’s just an hour’s drive from Kaiserslautern to Mainz on the Autobahn.
Just one hour for Chloe to speed from one life to another…