On Whitman

On Whitman

On Whitman

On Whitman

Synopsis

In this book, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet C. K. Williams sets aside the mass of biography and literary criticism that has accumulated around the work and person of Walt Whitman, and attempts to go back to Leaves of Grass as he first encountered it, to explore why Whitman's epic "continues to inspire and sometimes daunt" him. The result is a personal reassessment and appreciation of one master poet by another, as well as an unconventional and brilliant introduction--or reintroduction--to Whitman.


In brief, thematic chapters with many quotations from Leaves of Grass, Williams explores the innovations, originality, and sheer genius of the poetry that has become, as he puts it, "the unconscious" of much of the poetry of America and the world. Williams pays particular attention to the music of Whitman's poetry, its blazing perception and enormous human sympathy, its affecting anecdotes, and its vast cast of characters, as well as to the radical nature of Whitman's first-person speaker, his liberating attitude toward sex, and his unconventional ideas about death. While conveying the singularities of Whitman's work, Williams also shows what Whitman had in common with other great poets of his time, such as Baudelaire, and the powerful influence Whitman had on later poets such as Eliot and Pound.


Beautifully written and rich with insight, this is a book that refreshes our ability to see Whitman in all his power.

Excerpt

When I mentioned to a poet-friend that I was thinking of writing a small book on Whitman, he answered, “What in heavens name is left to say?”—a very reasonable question. The mass of commentary on Whitman, on Whitman's poems, Whitman's America, Whitman's world, is all but overwhelming. A bibliography of the germane commentary on the poetry would make a large volume in itself; a consideration of the work that attempts to situate the man in his time and place would make another. To mention just my two of my favorite books: Paul Zweig's Walt Whitman: The Making of the Poet is a sensitive, erudite poets probing of the unlikeliness of a phenomenon like Leaves of Grass being generated by what to all appearances was a rather mediocre journal-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.