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Virginia Quarterly Review - Spring 2005

  • Issue Number: Volume 81 Number 2
  • Published Date: Spring 2005

"I dreamed in a dream I saw a city invincible to the attacks of the whole / of the rest of the earth,"—could any "dead poet" be more, for lack of a better word, relevant? It's not hard to understand why VQR has devoted a whole (glorious and gorgeous) issue to honor Walt Whitman on the 150th anniversary of the publication of Leaves of Grass. The issue includes essays of various styles, lengths, and intents from twenty-five American poets and writers and five beautifully reproduced sets of photos of Whitman with commentary by Ed Folsom, adapted from the gallery section of the Walt Whitman Archive. The essays are marvelous reading, illuminating Whitman's work as they explore everything from the current state of activism in the poetry world (Sam Hamill), to a personal experience of immigration (Meena Alexander) as an experience of poetry, to one writer's consideration of her Southern roots (Natasha Trethewey). From in-depth analysis of Whitman's work and his mark on American life and letters (by Mark Doty, Richard Tayson, Kenneth M. Price and others), to brief, personal, lyrical impressions of Whitman's meaning for their own work and lives (Rafael Campo, Jane Hirshfield, Charles Wright), the issue is a fitting tribute to Whitman. Gregory Orr's poem, "Concerning the Book that is the Body of the Beloved" opens the volume in apt, Whitmanesque style: "Oh, the world, the world, / What eye is wide enough?" 

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Review Posted on April 30, 2005

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