This course explores three poems by Walt Whitman: "Long, Too Long America," "Salut Au Monde," and "Song of the Open Road." It then moves into a more contemporary mode with two of Maya Angelou's poems: "Phenomenal Woman" and "Still I Rise."

Whitman (1819 - 1892) has been widely anthologized and much studied since his death; he is recognized as an innovator in American poetic form and as "America's poet." Maya Angelou (1928 - 2014) received a list of awards too long to list fully. It includes a Presidential Medal of Freedom, several Grammy Awards, NAACP Image Awards, the Quill Award for Poetry, and the Springarn Medal.

The three Whitman poems are marked by the use of parallelism, which allows him to reflect in his style the democracy he is singing. Parallelism is a way to avoid hierarchies and power relationships at the level of the sentence, echoing Whitman's hopes for democracy.

Angelou's poems exhibit an accessibility and directness of address capable of arresting us as readers and holding us in place until she is finished. Her tone in these poems expresses their speakers' confidence; the woman in both knows her worth and speaks it freely in a bold tone that she knows the reader will interpret as audacity.

We look forward to sharing these poems with you! In each of five emails, which you can schedule to receive at a pace that suits your needs, you will receive:

  • A link to the poem being discussed.
  • Commentary by Julia Davis.
  • Questions for reflection and practice.
  • An invitation to journal about what you're learning.

Your guide for this exploration is Julia (Julie) Davis, who was a 2018 - 2019 fellow with The Practicing Democracy Project. Julia holds an M.A. and C.Phil. in English and American Literatures and Cultures from Brown University and a B.A. in English from the University of California at Santa Barbara. When she created this program, she was pursuing her Master of Divinity at Claremont School of Theology with a focus on Interfaith Chaplaincy. Her interest in chaplaincy grew out of her 17 years experience teaching American literature at the college and high school level. Julia is passionate about the intersection of spiritual practices and social change.

These Whitman and Angelou poems are among the twelve selections in the We the People Book Club, an opportunity to strengthen your vision of democracy by contemplating America's past and possibilities as presented by classic and contemporary literary voices. You may also be interested in the e-courses mentioned in the sidebar under "Also Recommended."

(5 CEHs for chaplains available.)

Available On-Demand
(choose your own start date and frequency)


SubscribeGive as Gift