From “Paper Towns”

“What a mistake it is to distill this poem into something hopeless. I hope that’s not the case. If you read the whole poem, I don’t see how you can come to any conclusions except that life is sacred and valuable. But–who knows. Maybe she skimmed it for what she was looking for. We often read poems that way. But if so, she completely misunderstood what Whitman was asking of her.”

“Mostly I just read the parts she highlighted. I’m reading it to try to understand Margo, not to try to understand Whitman.”

“I think that is precisely what Whitman would have wanted. For you to see ‘Song of Myself’ not just as a poem but as a way into understand another. But I wonder if maybe you have to read it as a poem, instead of just reading these fragments for quotes and clues. I do think there are some interesting connections between the poet in ‘Song of Myself’ and Margo Spiegelman– all that wild charisma and wanderlust. But a poem can’t do its work if you only read snippets of it.”

John Green


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