Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Welcome Back (Again) John Greenleaf Whittier
A rather extraordinary individual, in addition to being a tremendous poet, John Greenleaf Whittier seems to have sadly disappeared from the public school curriculum. (Full disclosure: Though to be fair, I am unclear as to how significant a part of it he ever was.) Despite being beloved by a who's who of American poets (as evidenced by guest list of attendees at his seventieth birthday dinner in 1877: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Mark Twain, and Oliver Wendell Holmes), the poet's name draws only blank stares from students when asked about his works, though I would venture to guess in the New England region he is much more well-regarded (and remembered).
Just as his spirit was briefly conjured in my upstate New York classroom a number of year's ago, Thanksgiving gives me an opportunity to all on John Greenleaf Whittier once again. Given the subject matter, Whittier's popular poem, "The Pumpkin," lacks the political bent of his more renowned abolitionist works, but through its simple, accessible images of comfirting pumpkin pie shares with "Snow-Bound" the purpose of showing how the idyllic past can be brought briefly to the present.