Collage of Myself: Walt Whitman and the Making of Leaves of Grass

By Matt Miller | Go to book overview

3
Kosmos Poets and
Spinal Ideas

Even as the nomadic Whitman of the early 1850s lived a life on the go, moving from house to house and desk to desk with his myriad notebooks and scattered draft s of lines, he was also searching for threads of order in what he had written, structures that would come to shape the poems of the first edition of Leaves of Grass. Whitman liked to call these concepts his “spinal ideas,” a phrase that calls to mind not only a human body but also a book, with its spine, holding its leaves together. The concept was highly elastic, and he applied it in different circumstances to mean different things. In this chapter I focus on the “spinal ideas” that are most thoroughly worked through in the early notebooks: concepts and themes that get fleshed out in actual lines, often in repeated draft s. One of the most important of these, which Whitman worked out in the “Talbot Wilson” notebook, is his concept of dilation, a principle involved in almost all of his first mature poems and which the notebooks show him preoccupied with during the

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Collage of Myself: Walt Whitman and the Making of Leaves of Grass
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Abbreviations xix
  • 1 - How Whitman Used His Early Notebooks 1
  • 2 - Packing and Unpacking the First Leaves of Grass 48
  • 3 - Kosmos Poets and Spinal Ideas 104
  • 4 - Poems of Materials 161
  • 5 - Whitman after Collage / Collage after Whitman 215
  • Notes 251
  • Bibliography 275
  • Index 283
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