Ned Rorem in what can be described as a cat and mouse interview with Lawrence D. Mass (published in Queering the Pitch: the new gay and lesbian musicology) is confronted with a passage from Walt Whitman. It appears that Mass is banking on the fact that Rorem has set some of Whitman’s poems to music and wants to illicit some sort of avowal.
Mass: I think the following statement by another very outspoken gay American artist might well apply to you: “Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.” Am I wrong?
Rorem: Of all the silly statements Whitman ever made, that’s the most irresponsible. Even poets should not give themselves a loophole by saying they are so complicated that they think all sorts of different things. Of course, they do … But the contradictions need to be organized and then frozen into art. For people to use their complexity as an excuse for laxity is too easy an out. I don’t approve of it, not for Walt Whitman, not for me nor anyone else. In the guise of being contradictory, evil things can happen.
End of interview
And so for day 973