In high school, my English teacher made each student memorize a passage from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. I learned the 47th section, containing the phrase, “I follow you whoever you are from the present hour, / My words itch at your ears till you understand them.” I didn’t find the exercise particularly meaningful until, years later, I found myself turning over those words in my head on a cold walk across Penn’s campus. They kept me company; they understood how I felt at that moment. So I realized: there is value in carrying around someone else’s words.
This pocket collection has something for everyone; the subjects range from family and loneliness, to lost love. Each piece demands to be poured over, questioned, and admired. The editorial board lovingly selected these pieces from a large pool of excellent writing, because each made us want to reread and carry the words around with us. I hope this issue of Penn Review finds a place in your pocket where the words will itch at your ears until you understand them.