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What Is the Grass

Nonfiction: Biography
Unabridged   9 hour(s)
Publication date: 04/14/2020

What Is the Grass

Walt Whitman in My Life

Available from major retailers or BUY FROM AMAZON
Digital Download ISBN:9781684578733


Effortlessly blending biography, criticism, and memoir, National Book Award–winning poet and bestselling memoirist Mark Doty explores his personal quest for Walt Whitman.

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Product Description

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.


"Narrator Jonathan Yen is unobtrusive, letting the text carry the considerable emotional weight of two lives and some of the greatest—and most revolutionary—of American poetry.”- AudioFile

“Doty puts on a clinic in how to read closely but expansively, going back to Whitman’s greatest poems, bouncing them off incidents in his own life, but also the work of his contemporaries...This is shining proof that criticism can make you want to hold it close.” —John Freeman, LitHub

“[Doty] reveals a profound understanding of Whitman's life and poetry...Throughout, the author exudes an exuberance about life and words that rivals that of his subject...A captivating paean to Whitman combined with unblinking self-examination.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A masterful example [of the hybrid memoir]―weaving a close reading of Whitman’s life and writings into Doty’s own ruminations on art, queerness, humanism, and the American experience.” —Arianna Rebolini, Buzzfeed

Author Bio

Mark Doty is the author of more than ten volumes of poetry and three memoirs. His many honors include the National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and a Lila Wallace–Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award.