What Is the Grass: Walt Whitman in My Life
Mark Doty has always felt haunted by Walt Whitman's bold, perennially new American voice, and by his equally radical claims about body and soul and what it means to be a self. In What Is the Grass , Doty--a poet, a New Yorker, and an American--keeps company with Whitman and his Leaves of Grass , tracing the resonances between his own experience and the legendary poet's life and work. What is it then between us? Whitman asks. In search of an answer, Doty explores spaces--both external and internal--where he finds the poet's ghost. He meditates on desire, love, and the mysterious wellsprings of the poet's enduring work: a radical experience of transformation and enlightenment, queer sexuality, and an obsession with death, as well as unabashed love for a great city and for the fresh, rowdy character of American speech. In riveting close readings threaded with personal memoir and illuminated by awe, Doty reveals the power of Whitman's persistent presence in his life and in the American imagination at large. How does a voice survive death? What Is the Grass is a conversation across time and space, a study of the astonishment one poet finds in the accomplishment of another, and an attempt to grasp Whitman's deeply hopeful vision of human possibility.
From the Back Cover Praise for Mark Doty: One of the things that has been constant about Mark Doty's work, poetry, and prose is his intense search for the exact word or phrase, of whatever issue, which lead him (and us) into the very furnace of meaning within the human story. - Mary Oliver Doty's gorgeous prose and piercing meditations...are simply sublime. - Washington Post Magazine His exacting, sensuous language resonates far beyond, as well as deeply into, the personal sphere. - Los Angeles Times