Quirky Books: Walt Whitman on Death and Dying

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Walt Whitman on Death and Dying

A collection of poems for Jan's dying Brother Joe. The preface was written shortly before she died. Though Joe and Jan compiled poems and photos related to grieving process, their names do not appear in the copyright, yet it is dedicated to Joe Vest.

Not sure how I feel about the book, it relies on Walt Whitman's poems and famous photography, yet people from dying from AIDs are exploited. I enjoy Walt Whitman's poetry, the photographs are intriguing, yet I wonder if it would be as intriguing without the preface. I wonder if surviving family members gain a royalty on book sales. The preface could be removed, yet it was edited by Joe Vest. He selected each poem and poems meld together though primarily in relation to dying people. Without an attachment to them, there isn't as much reason to find a purpose in placement.

Walt Whitman was born in 1819. Born on Long Island, his parents were Quakers. Whitman was a transcendentalist and realist. Throughout his poetry a lingering of Christianity is apparent in philosophical twists seeming to relate to death. Frequently, sea or ocean appears to be metaphorical symbolism of limbo. Several people theorize we need a partner to successfully cross the ocean to heaven or cross the river to hell. As a bachelor he is safe from finding either.

Whitman is described as homosexual or bisexual. Most of the selected poems revolve around crossing the sea. In one poem he is optimistic. In most he imagines himself as a wondering spirit free to travel through space and time. In one poem he is lost at sea.

The order of these poems appears to follow a pattern beginning with youth and ending in death. I believe the sea and ocean represent other aspects of his life. Living close to the ocean, stories along the beach or sailing also portray memories. This displaces the continuity of the book; however, emphasis on enjoying life as much as possible and living in the moment is emphasized in the beginning of the book; therefore, this could highlight enjoying life with a mention of Mary Oaks Davis.

Some information about Joe and Jan Vest is mentioned in the book. It is a melancholy tale. A brother and sister cope with grief by reading Walt Whitman poems. What do the poems mean to them and how does it inspired them? Orientated towards the macabre, several people will enjoy the book. For various reasons it is unsuitable for most people.

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