Girl Power and Women's Wiles Poetry Friday Reading Themes

Poetry Friday: Unfolded Out of the Folds

For the past two weeks, Myra has featured poems that not only celebrate womanhood but also were written by inspirational women. While I have a bunch of books that feature women, I don’t have a poetry collection written by and for women. My original thought on this post was to feature one of the two picture books in verse that I borrowed from the library. However, I was fortunate enough to come across this particular work of Walt Whitman, a beloved poet whose work, O Captain! My Captain!, was featured in the movie Dead Poets Society.

The celebrated poet, Walt Whitman. Click on the image to be taken to the websource.
Robin Williams plays unconventional English professor John Keating in Dead Poets Society. Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

Walt Whitman’s Unfolded Out of the Folds is part of his poetry collection, Leaves of Grass. This poem might remind you of other similar poems, and if you think of one please share it with us. We would be happy to read about it. I chose this particular poem because it makes me proud of being a woman, despite the wee bit of controversy embedded in the poem. Unfolded Out of the Folds has a certain liberating effect; it redefines womanhood, and how man relates to a woman. Today’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Heidi Mordhorst from My Juicy Little Universe.

Unfolded Out of the Folds
by Walt Whitman

UNFOLDED only out of the folds of the
         woman, man comes unfolded, and is always
         to come unfolded,
Unfolded only out of the superbest woman of the
         earth is to come the superbest man of the
Unfolded out of the friendliest woman is to come
         the friendliest man,
Unfolded only out of the perfect body of a
         woman, can a man be formed of perfect body,
Unfolded only out of the inimitable poem of
         the woman can come the poems of man —
         only thence have my poems come,
Unfolded out of the strong and arrogant woman
         I love, only thence can appear the strong
         and arrogant man I love,
Unfolded out of the folds of the woman’s brain,
         come all the folds of the man’s brain, duly
Unfolded out of the justice of the woman, all jus-
         tice is unfolded,
Unfolded out of the sympathy of the woman is all
A man is a great thing upon the earth, and
         through eternity—but every jot of the great-
         ness of man is unfolded out of woman,
First the man is shaped in the woman, he can
         then be shaped in himself.

After reading the poem, I thought of Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. However, I decided to share with you instead these beautiful women paintings by romantic impressionist Andrew Atroshenko, as found in the archives of Artodyssey. “Accepted as a gifted child in 1977 in the Children’s Art School, Andrew graduated with honors in 1981… Like many artists, Andrew has his artistic references and influences, but his wife and daughter are the inspiration for his passion.”

I am **excited** to hear your thoughts about this!

Fats is the Assistant Manager for Circulation Services at the Wayne County Public Library in Wooster, Ohio. She considers herself a reader of all sorts, although she needs to work on her non-fiction reading. Fats likes a good mystery but is not too fond of thrillers. She takes book hoarding seriously and enjoys collecting bookmarks and tote bags. When she is not reading, Fats likes to shop pet apparel for her cat Penny (who absolutely loathes it).

6 comments on “Poetry Friday: Unfolded Out of the Folds

  1. My favorite lines:
    “Unfolded only out of the inimitable poem of
    the woman can come the poems of man —
    only thence have my poems come”

    With all of the legislative attacks on women and our reproductive rights in the U.S., I have also been thinking about women as human beings, equal to all other human beings. One of my favorite strong woman poems is “Wishes for Sons” by Lucille Clifton.


  2. Love the paintings!


  3. That Laura took my favorite lines! ;0) Thank you, Fats, for such a provocative post today – I wasn’t familiar with this passage, though I’m sure we read Leaves of Grass in college. Or maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention. I’m paying attention now.


  4. I love the poem Fats, & know Whitman in some of his poems but am surprised at this one. How lovely that he paid such homage to women. I wonder if he would have liked the paintings. She is so lovely! I have an anthology given to me with love from a friend of long ago, It’s titled No More Masks, an anthology of 20th century American Women Poets. It’s long, although of course restricted to American women poets. I open it to read a poem now & then, & a favorite, while not so pleasant, speaks to me of women today & the current argument about reproductive rights. It can be found here ( at the Poetry Foundation. See what you think!


  5. This reminds me, in a way, of Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise.”. Perhaps it’s the repetition…or the message of empowerment.


  6. Hey baby girl, I have just watched Dead Poets Society with the little girl just now. Never fails to move – regardless of one’s age, generation, preoccupations (husband who is usually averse to poetry, re-lived the movie, and grew to love it now). Oh Captain! My Captain indeed. Now that I am a wee bit older, couldn’t help but think that the movie might have been a ‘cautionary tale’ perhaps to ‘unconventional’/oddball teachers? Just felt sad. Will be watching Dangerous Minds tomorrow for Sunday viewing. This should be interesting. It’s great watching all these old movies and seeing them through Ela’s eyes.


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