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Live Oak, with Moss

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4.24  ·  Rating details ·  141 ratings  ·  46 reviews
As he was turning forty, Walt Whitman wrote twelve poems in a small handmade book he entitled “Live Oak, With Moss.” The poems were intensely private reflections on his attraction to and affection for other men. They were also Whitman’s most adventurous explorations of the theme of same-sex love, composed decades before the word “homosexual” came into use. This ...more
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by Harry N. Abrams
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Average rating 4.24  · 
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 ·  141 ratings  ·  46 reviews


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Alec Lyons
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the most beautiful books I have the pleasure of owning.

What strikes me most about the poems within, other than their historical importance, and other than their intense reverence for his love, is that of the comfort in the knowledge, hope and vision of a community of men (and implied; people) who love just the same as him.
Jon Nakapalau
The longing that echos from these pages is palpable - just the desire to be with the one you love.
Elizabeth A
Aug 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Whitman fans
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Literary Disco
Shelves: art, poetry, 2019
Book blurb: As he was turning forty, Walt Whitman wrote twelve poems in a small handmade book he entitled “Live Oak, With Moss.” The poems were intensely private reflections on his attraction to and affection for other men.

I've dabbled with Whitman's poetry, but have yet to read any of his work from start to finish. This book was highly recommended on a podcast I listen to, and it didn't occur to me that as English majors, those folks would probably have a deeper appreciation of his work than I
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Kate
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Stunning. Stunning! Whitman's poems, Brian Selznick's illustrations, Maurice Sendak's inspiration, and Karen Karbiener's analysis are like a conversation across time. To see Whitman's most personal, unpublished poetry presented in such a lush, gorgeous way really celebrates and sings him. (Yawp, for real.)

Like the cluster, Selznick's art unfolds slowly, tenderly, passionately — a visual poem. I loved the combination of his signature colored pencil drawings and collage of 19th and 20th century
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Alison
May 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry, adult
I picked this up because I really enjoyed a discussion of it on a podcast I listen to, but clearly I wasn't listening closely enough to understand what I was actually getting in this book. Having never read Walt Whitman (outside of maybe a poem in an English class?), I didn't have enough of a connection to the person or to these poems in their later form to find their "true" form all that interesting. The illustrations were beautiful, but I didn't really feel a connection between them and the ...more
Robert
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a visualization of a cluster of homoerotic Walt Whitman poems that he put together in a secret handmade book around 1850. The drawings by Brian Selznick are exceptional and the afterward by Karen Karbiener contextualizes Whitman's original work within his life and times. Good show all around.
Felicia V. Edens
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"'Live Oak, with Moss' doesn't *declare* manly love organic, natural, and pure; it takes as a given that it *is*... 'Live Oak, with Moss' is Whitman's first sustained attempt to address the naturalness of love beyond traditional heteronormative boundaries." - from the afterword by Karen Karbiener

The naturalness of love in these twelve short poems is in symbiosis with the geography of the natural world as well, making these poems very romantic. But they are enormously sad, save for a few moments,
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Juli Anna
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
A beautiful imagining of Whitman's little-known, queerest poems.
Rina
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have found him who loves me, as I him, in perfect love,
With the rest I dispense – I sever from all that I thought would suffice me, for it does not – it is now empty and tasteless to me


I knew two things about this book a) that it’s gay and b) that it’s aesthetically pleasing and thus literally fulfills all the criteria I have for buying books these days.

Little you know the subtle electric fire that for your sake is playing within me

I didn’t know, however, that this book is about 75%
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Jessica
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
A beautiful ode to Whitman and one of his later found poems. I’d never read Whitman before this book and it was a nice introduction to but also part biography. Great for anyone who loves Whitman, art or poetry.
Raquel
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This made me very emotional. The artwork complements the poems very well in my opinion and after I finished the poems, I felt very emotional. 10/10 crying in the bathroom.
Jason Furman
May 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Amazing illustrations by Brian Selznick who never fails to be amazing (see The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Wonderstruck, and The Marvels). I wish I actually enjoyed the Walt Whitman poems they were illustrating. And the academic afterward seemed very good but was a bit too detailed on Whitman for my taste. In some dimension this book is superlative, just not completely to my taste--and that may be my own failing.

The book is a set of homoerotic poems that Whitman wrote but never published and were
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Emily
This is an absolutely gorgeous book, brilliant with colorful illustrations and shiny gold page edges. The content is first a hundred pages or so of Brian Selznik's expressive artwork to companion the cluster of twelve Whitman poems "Live Oak, with Moss" which are nestled in between the illustrations. There is a wonderfully-written, lengthy afterword by Whitman scholar Karen Karbiener at the end, as well as scans of Whitman's original notepages on which he wrote "Live Oak, with Moss."

In these
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Zoë
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoy Brian Selznick's work and have read several of his books and shared them with my class (4th-6th graders) when I was teaching. This is a very different book, illustrated, in part, using color. Some of the drawings are representational and many more, especially the color ones, are abstract, definitely a departure from Selznick's style.

The twelve Whitman poems, which come after the drawings and comprise the eponymous title, are deep and rich. I know I would have missed much of the meaning,
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Corinne
Dec 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Where were these poems when I had my fiercest crushes back in high school? Whitman gets it.

These poems were previously never seen, though Whitman cut up some of them and put them in Leaves of Grass. The cluster of 12 poems explores the narrator's relationships with different (or the same?) men and the attending emotions, from giddiness, to love, to despair, to contentedness. The accompanying illustrations really fit the mood of the poem cluster, in my opinion.
Erin
An interesting combination of children's literature greats and iconic American poetry swimming in the fiery passion of male love.

As is typical with Brian Selznick's artwork, I struggle with the incredibly inconveniently placed gutter. In one of the sequences, the gutter becomes part of the action, but in the rest it's just a disruption. I've not come across his style in a grownup context, but he always creates gorgeously immersive art, and it complements the poems well.

The organization of the
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Jessica Stokes
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Its a beautiful embossed and gilt-paged book and thicker than you would assume for twelve short poems. Brian Selznick, a childrens’ book illustrator, fills over half of it with illustrations alluding to the poems, arranged like key frames of an animated sequence. Then you can read the typed poems in their original sequence and finalized forms within what Whitman named “Live Oak, With Moss.” After that comes an in-depth and loving analysis of Whitman’s life around the making of these poems, his ...more
Ben
Live Oak, with Moss is a pretentious book.
I mean this in the best and worst ways.

You've got Whitman, who is deified in American literature. He's pastoral; he's quintessentially American. He's transcendental. Whitman as a writer is always very aware of what he's doing, he knows what strings he's plucking.

Live Oak, with Moss is Whitman's diary. It's still Whitman, but it's raw and aching--the love that dare not speak its name, if you will.

Now, Selznick's art in some ways is grafted onto Whitman.
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CleverBaggins
I picked up a copy that looked gorgeous, nothing like this cover. It was just so pretty and natural looking and then said it was poems about whitman's feelings being gay and away from the man he adored. Despite thinking it could be something I could relate to, these just weren't for me. Maybe whitman isn't in general. I haven't read him before. Poetry usually isn't my thing anyway so I'll just say this isn't for me and I've tried to.
Dominic
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"Whether or not you know [Whitman] or his work, whatever your sexual orientation and gender, you will find in these poems the timeless and courageous voice of a person attempting to be true to himself, body and soul" (137).

Brian Selznick's illustrations to accompany these poems, Walt Whitman's most personal, are simply gorgeous. "Live Oak, With Moss" was written, at age 40, post-break-up with a younger man, and were later revised into the "Calamus" series of Leaves of Grass. In this elegantly
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Rachelle
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A Fresh Take on Poetry!
I love the introduction to this book; it states that illustrator Maurice Sendak originally turned down the request to illustrate the book because, "poems don't need illustrations". After reading this collection, I'd have to disagree. While I do believe that the poems could stand alone, the pictures do enhance the collection. Viewers are forced to look at Whitman, and his lover, in a new, abstract, way.
Jane
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sometimes I trust the history of an author/illustrator’s work and buy a book without looking into what it’s about. And sometimes you’re standing in line at ALAAC because you see the author is signing books.

No matter what the scenario was, I hold in my hands, a beautiful hard bound gold edged copy signed by Brian Selznick, happy with my blind faith purchase.

It is beautiful.

The poems of Walt Whitman and the explanations behind his hidden work... the pages of art illustrating it... the
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Casey Peel
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm not a huge fan of poetry, so perhaps it isn't a surprise that I somehow made it to 40 without having read any of Whitman's work. But this small collection of 12 poems was lovely. I found the illustrations interesting but not compelling, as was the in-depth discussion at the end (which honestly I skimmed the last half of).

Get this book from your library for the poetry. Just 12 lovely little poems, finally recombined into their original, never-published, set. 12 delightful poems of affection
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Earl
May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wow! Brian Selznick delivers another unique reading experience- similar to what he did with The Invention of Hugo Cabret- this time illustrating a companion of sorts to Walt Whitman's poems "Live Oak, with Moss." This cluster of twelve poems, long kept secret for their homoerotic content, is full of passion and yearning describing many stages of love. Included is an in depth analysis of the writing and meanings of these poems.
Ben
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-bookshelf
Beautiful illustrations accompany Whitman’s original poems that predate his revered Leaves of Grass, which these poems are included in, albeit in often drastically different form. Whitman readers and those who want to understand an LGBTQ forefather should take an afternoon and read this volume.
Sandy Sprague
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very passionate poems paired with illustrations that really evoke the feelings expressed in the poems. The book also had some interesting insights into Walt Whitman and some of the ideas expressed in the poems.
Trishwah
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hard-copy, own, book-group
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kevin Wright
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
That the poems themselves would be amazing was beyond a doubt. But what Selznick does with his extensive illustrations is transcendent.
Rebecca
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Learned a lot about Whitman. And there are beautiful illustrations in this book!
Virginiatingley
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the most gorgeous books I’ve ever had the pleasure of looking at. It was intense, passionate, beautiful, and devastating. I’m so glad I got the chance to read it.
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Walter Whitman was an American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist. He was a part of the transition between Transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse.

Born on Long Island, Whitman worked as a journalist, a teacher, a government clerk, and a volunteer nurse during
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