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Ben Lerner: On Disliking Poetry, 18 June 2015

... up to the task: she is, after all, writing actual poems. ‘I am large, I contain multitudes,’ Walt Whitman wrote in ‘Song of Myself’, and Packer’s nostalgia – as with many American nostalgists – is clearly shaped by the figure of Whitman, who desired his book, Leaves of Grass, to be a secular bible for ...

In Praise of Mess

Richard Poirier: Walt Whitman, 4 June 1998

With Walt Whitman in Camden. Vol. VIII: 11 February 1891-30 September 1891 
by Horace Traubel, edited by Jeanne Chapman and Robert MacIsaac.
Bentley, 624 pp., $99.50, November 1996, 0 9653415 8 5
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With Walt Whitman in Camden. Vol. IX: 11 February 1891-30 September 1891 
by Horace Traubel, edited by Jeanne Chapman and Robert MacIsaac.
Bentley, 624 pp., £99.50, November 1996, 0 9653415 9 3
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... the appearance in 1906 of the first volume, all two and a half million words of Horace Traubel’s Walt Whitman in Camden are now in print. Altogether the volumes cover the last four years of Whitman’s life, from 1888 to 1892, and consist of nearly day by day renditions of ...

Six Children

Mark Ford, 15 April 2004

... Though unmarried I have had six children’ Walt Whitman The first woman I ever got with child wore calico In Carolina. She was hoeing beans; as a languorous breeze I caressed her loins, until her hoe lay abandoned in the furrow. The second was braving the tumultuous seas that encircle This fish-shaped isle; by the time a sudden riptide tore Her from my grasp, she had known the full power of Paumanok ...

Creases and Flecks

Laura Quinney: Mark Doty, 3 October 2002

Still Life with Oysters and Lemon 
by Mark Doty.
Beacon, 72 pp., $11, January 2002, 0 8070 6609 5
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by Mark Doty.
Cape, 69 pp., £8, April 2002, 9780224062282
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... and sentiment: ‘At the Gym’, ‘Lost in the Stars’, ‘Manhattan: Luminism’, ‘Letter to Walt Whitman’ (alluding to Auden’s ‘Letter to Lord Byron’), ‘Paul’s Tattoo’ (alluding to ‘Tattoos’ in James Merrill’s sequence ‘Peter’), ‘An Island Sheaf’ (alluding to Hart Crane’s Key West: An Island Sheaf), ‘Summer ...

Manly Love

John Bayley, 28 January 1993

Walt WhitmanFrom Moon to Starry Night 
by Philip Callow.
Allison and Busby, 394 pp., £19.99, October 1992, 0 85031 908 0
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The Double Life of Stephen Crane 
by Christopher Benfey.
Deutsch, 294 pp., £17.99, February 1993, 0 233 98820 3
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... his own private life, the English writer Edmund Gosse enthused on the resemblance of the aged Walt Whitman to ‘a great old Angora Tom’. The marvellous old poet, with his soft white hair and snowy silken ruff of beard, would have been delighted by the compliment. Philip Callow’s book is the most imaginative re-creation yet made of the poet’s ...

Two Poems

John Hartley Williams, 7 September 2006

... rightwards – and at the end, some happy thoughts occur to our laureate about great poets: Basho, Walt Whitman, Ernest Snaffleburger, Czeslaw Milos, Rilke. Those are his heroes (except for Snaffleburger, I just put that in to see if you read this far). Now, Ernest had none of Basho’s brevity, none of Whitman’s ...


Jacqueline Rose: ‘Specimen Days’, 22 September 2005

Specimen Days 
by Michael Cunningham.
Fourth Estate, 308 pp., £14.99, August 2005, 0 00 715605 7
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... part of a cell, or ‘family’, of drifting boys taken up by an old woman who goes by the name of Walt Whitman – whose poetry they all cite and whose vision they share. ‘Nobody really dies. We go into the grass. We go into the trees.’ ‘Of your real body and any man’s or woman’s real body,’ Whitman wrote ...

Petty Grotesques

Mark Ford: Whitman, 17 March 2011

Democratic Vistas 
by Walt Whitman, edited by Ed Folsom.
Iowa, 143 pp., $24.95, April 2010, 978 1 58729 870 7
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... Macmillan’s in Britain, where it caused an immediate furore, but in various American papers. Walt Whitman read it in the New York Tribune of 16 August. ‘Carlyle always stirs me to the deeps,’ Whitman observed late in life in a conversation with Horace Traubel, and he was soon planning a response to Carlyle’s ...

Sexual Politics

Michael Neve, 5 February 1981

Edward Carpenter, 1844-1929: Prophet of Human Fellowship 
by Chushichi Tsuzuki.
Cambridge, 237 pp., £15, November 1980, 0 521 23371 2
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... Fawcett and the mathematician W.K. Clifford (not R.K., as Tsuzuki has it); he also began reading Walt Whitman. After journeying to Italy, and experiencing with Whitman’s verse a whole array of new thoughts (and new doubts), Carpenter came to find the intellectual life of the university ‘a fraud and a ...

Icicles by Cynthia

Clarence Brown, 21 March 1996

The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov 
edited by Dmitri Nabokov.
Knopf, 659 pp., $35, October 1995, 0 394 58615 8
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... That Plato was by nature a short-story writer, not a novelist, seems clear. Walt Whitman was a novelist, Chopin a writer of short stories. Michelangelo was a novelist, Picasso a writer of short stories. Whatever the medium, most artists would seem to favour a breathing period that is either long or short. Chekhov, Borges, Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Carver were short-story writers ...

Not Rough Enough

Tony Tanner, 19 October 1995

Bret Harte: Selected Stories and Sketches 
by David Wyatt.
Oxford, 332 pp., £5.99, February 1995, 9780192823540
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... goes on to nominate two other figures who rebelled significantly against the genteel tradition – Walt Whitman (‘the revolt of the Bohemian temperament, with its poetry of crude naturalism’), and William James (‘an impassioned empiricism ... declaring the universe to be wild and young’). The Californian ‘humorists’ referred to by Santayana ...

Strawberries in December

Paul Laity: She Radicals, 30 March 2017

Rebel Crossings: New Women, Free Lovers and Radicals in Britain and the United States 
by Sheila Rowbotham.
Verso, 512 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 1 78478 588 8
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... regardless of class or sex. Its members met in coffee houses, read from their favourite poets – Whitman, Shelley, William Morris – and listened to ‘rousing glees’; Carpenter was one of their most popular speakers. The two women were swept up in the ‘new unionism’ that energised British socialism at the end of the 1880s, as the old craft unions ...

Royal Americans

D.A.N. Jones, 4 October 1984

by Gore Vidal.
Heinemann, 657 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 434 83077 1
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Stars and Bars 
by William Boyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 255 pp., £8.50, September 1984, 0 241 11343 1
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... make a great scene of the killing. The rage of Lincoln’s adherents has been vividly described by Walt Whitman, with the cry of ‘Murder!’ ringing through the playhouse, the white-faced widow shouting in her box, the silly-looking theatregoers rushing on stage: ‘a dense and motley crowd, like some horrible carnival – the actors and actresses all ...


Robert Crawford, 3 October 1996

The Poems of Ossian and Related Works 
by James Macpherson, edited by Howard Gaskill.
Edinburgh, 573 pp., £16.95, January 1996, 0 7486 0707 2
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... To these questions from the fourth fragment, I’m tempted to answer that the voice is that of Walt Whitman, the great self-styled ‘bard’ who classed Ossian with the Bible, and who thought that Red Jacket, one of the great Iroquois orators, was ‘like one of Ossian’s ghosts’. Whitman grew his long lines out ...

Melton Constable

W.R. Mead, 22 May 1986

The past is a foreign country 
by David Lowenthal.
Cambridge, 489 pp., £27.50, November 1985, 0 521 22415 2
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... of the present. Not surprisingly, for an author who has for long been afflicted with what Walt Whitman called ‘the disease of historic nostalgia’, the first part of this book – wanting the past – claims the most space. Nostalgia provides the opening theme. But nostalgia is rarely memory without pain. Dreams can be transformed into ...

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