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go forth

What to think of Levi's using Walt Whitman as a spokesman in its new Go Forth campaign? The commercial is certainly daring, featuring a rare recording of Whitman reading his poem 'America' (1888).

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear'd, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair'd in the adamant of Time.

(To be precise, the audio is a "wax cylinder recording of what is thought to be Whitman's voice reading four lines from the poem". The recording is available at the Walt Whitman Archive.)

Visually the commercial is a strange, exhilirating mixture of grainy darkness and adolescent energy. As the New York Times put it, "the campaign demonstrates the growing interest among marketers in presenting their products to hard-pressed consumers as genuine enough to merit purchasing during a recession."

In a kind of ultimate hyperbole, 21st century consumerism has repackaged its own humble roots of self-relying, hopeful pioneers. It probably has Uncle Walt chuckling in his grave.

Update: For a harsh critique of this ad, see the Tegenlicht documentary 'Metamorphosis of a Crisis' (mostly in English).


barbaric yawp

To quote some more from Walt Whitman 's endlessly quotable ' Song of Myself ' (see previous post ): I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world. The second line was im… Read the full post »

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