This article investigates the relation between two poems titled “Oda a Walt Whitman,” one by Federico García Lorca (Poeta en Nueva York), the other by Pablo Neruda (Nuevas odas elementales). Both odes pay a tribute to Whitman, but also deviate from eulogy and provide a frame for a very critical depiction of contemporary America, thus mixing praise and disparagement. García Lorca and Neruda both appropriate Whitman's poetry, though they differ in the use they make of it. Furthermore, these odes should really be read as an ensemble by two poets who were once very close. The first time they met in 1933, they improvised a two-voiced speech, a “discurso al alimón,” in honor of Rubén Darío—who incidentally happens to have written a sonnet on Whitman. Neruda's “Oda a Walt Whitman” is not only an address to Whitman but also a response to García Lorca, a “poem al alimón,” so to speak. The odes really are a contrapuntal composition, since the voice of Darío echoes in the distance. Whitman is thus not only the addressee of the odes, but also a great mediator enabling García Lorca and Neruda's dialogue.

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