Fierce Wrestler Notebooks, 1845-1854
Fierce Wrestler! do you keep your heaviest grip for the last?
-- Notebooks, c. 1854
Whitman told Edward Carpenter that "the Democratic Review...tales came from the surface of the mind, and had no connection with what lay below -- a great deal of which was below consciousness. At last came the time when that concealed growth had to come to light, and the first edition of Leaves of Grass was written and published."1 Though Whitman insists that they do not, the poems and short stories offer some faint clues and indirect insinuations indicating "what lay below" and hint at fantasies about the sexually roving life. The notebooks however are the best source for that underground sensibility. Their contents -- poetic catalogs, lists of names, fragments of poems yet to be written -- pre-figure new technique, style, and strategy. These texts reveal a far more interestingly explicit concern with sexuality and with the specifically autoerotic and homoerotic nature of that sexuality. Here is the level "below consciousness," where flourish those roots of concealed growth the "sweet" and "timid leaves" that in Calamus2 are "the blossoms of my breast" -- live-oak, calamus, leaves of grass. These notebooks might well be called the unwritten private diaries of the young men whose veiled and allusory desires inform both plot and story in Whitman's fiction and the early poems. In these notebooks the young man who seeks the protection of an older man, the yearning youth who longs for a friend, or the troubled and dissolute hero who in saving a handsome boy saves himself, is engaged by more than indirection: the discourse of
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Publication information: Book title: Masculine Landscapes:Walt Whitman and the Homoerotic Text. Contributors: Byrne R. S. Fone - Author. Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press. Place of publication: Carbondale, IL. Publication year: 1992. Page number: 63.
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