What is the Grass: Walt Whitman in My Life

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In 1856, Walt Whitman asked, “We understand then, do we not?” in his poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.” In his latest book, What is the Grass, celebrated poet Mark Doty expands on that understanding in his own life. Part memoir, part celebration, and part poetic study, this new book is a revelation for fans of Whitman and Doty alike.

Separated into five sections, which Doty labels “Sources,” the book moves through Whitman’s poetic style and his personal entanglements (romantic and professional), and it didactically deconstructs the masterworks and lesser-known poems of the great Walt Whitman. A clear inspiration to Doty, the book documents the relationship he feels with Whitman on the poetic and personal levels—a distinction that is nearly imperceptible as one is part of the other. As gay men, Whitman and Doty both navigated worlds that attempted to close them in. But their art and will and pure need to live authentically rendered them free. Doty draws the lines of that freedom with clarity and grace in What is the Grass.

As a teacher who has taught Whitman for nearly twenty years, and as a poet who loves both him and Doty, this book is a pure joy. But even those who have not read either writer can find something of themselves in Doty’s latest. It articulates the understanding we all share, the clear and direct connection between each of us that Whitman lived and breathed, and of which Doty now reminds us.

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Star Count /5
Format Hard
Page Count
Publish Date 2020-04-14
ISBN 9780393070224 Buy this Book
Issue October 2020
Category Books About Books


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