Illuminated Chronicles: O Pioneers! (Levi’s Commercial)

This 2009 Levi’s commercial stays with me…I’m always on the hunt for creative and visual ways to communicate poetry. I’m a poet as much as I am a prophet…the free verse poem is my weapon of choice to confront a cold calculating culture. Yet in this modern society of guns and rough violence it’s almost like I am walking around with a sword. En Garde isn’t Avant-garde. Or is it?

Directed by M Blash for Wieden+Kennedy (the beautiful people behind Nike’s best ads_ this Levi’s ad O Pioneers! thrusts Walt Whitman’s poetry from Leaves of Grass into the public consciousness:

“O you youths, western youths,
So impatient, full of action, full of manly pride and friendship,
Plain I see you, western youths, see you tramping with the foremost, Pioneers! O pioneers!”

See? The sword of poetry cutting through the warm tv glaze…now to unleash those words sharp as broken glass in a tv spot celebrating reckless youth, freedom…jeans: rebellion is as much American as apple pie and the cowboy.

Grant McCracken wrote about these themes expressing an elegant eloquence: “But there is another deeper reason why Whitman ought to appear in an American ad. Advertising has taken up what Whitman thought was the poet’s job. All those grim protests from Mad Men notwithstanding, W+K and other agencies are now active inventors of American culture in a way very few poets can claim to be. As Whitman said in the preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass: “The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.”

Word To Big Bird! That’s the Money Ball right there:


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Ziggy Was Here January 8, 1947 – January 10, 2016

Also published on Medium.

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