I was struck by this ad for Levi’s jeans, which features a few stanzas from Walt Whitman’s poem “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” If you dislike the spot, I understand. The bullshit factor is high even by advertising standards: half-naked slackers as “new American pioneers,” hawking these surpassingly American jeans that are actually made overseas, using a poet who probably never heard of blue jeans. And all this solemnity over … pants. But to me this looks like an ad for Whitman, not Levi’s. When was the last time poetry looked this cool or sounded this stirring? Whether the ad will actually sell jeans I have no idea. But it will get plenty of people asking, “What is that poem?” And that is a very good thing.
By the way, the actor reading these lines is Will Geer, recorded in 1957, before he became Grandpa Walton.