Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself, Walt Whitman (1855), illustrated by Allen Crawford (2014)
This is quite an amazing book and represents several firsts for me. First, I haven’t read Whitman though I’ve come to learn that he along with Emily Dickinson are the true forbears of American poetry. I’ve heard some of his poems put to music, but the poetry itself has also been daunting. Second, this is the first graphic book that I’ve managed to read. Putting those together as Crawford has done provided a wonderful introduction to both Whitman and graphic books. The reading of a 60 page poem translated into 234 pages of heavily illustrated graphics with the lines insinuated among the art in all four directions, often impossible to know where to start and difficult to follow, turned out to be glorious fun. What a gorgeous poem—-big, very big, all encompassing, joyous, optimistic, glorious. “I am large…I contain multitudes.” is one of the famous lines from the book and a wonderful summary of Whitman’s scope and boundless enthusiasm for life, love, and connection. The book is bound in a heavy illustrated cover and the pages are in color as well, with the graphics showing great creativity and also joy. This will definitely be among the best of the year!