The following essay appears in our Autumn 2016 issue. The entire issue is available for immediate download.
Years ago, getting ready to teach a workshop in a town away from home–downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, far from home indeed—I realized I’d forgotten my copy of Leaves of Grass. I went into a used bookstore, pulled a copy off the shelf (there is a copy of Leaves in every used bookstore, everywhere in the nation; count on it) and paid for it without opening it. The passage I needed was the opening of the sixth section of what would come to be called “Song of Myself,” as Whitman went on shaping and revising his impossible American omnibus of a book:
A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child?… I do not know what it
is any more than he.
Turning to the page, I was disheartened to find that the margins were lined with notes, inked in the looping penmanship of a dutiful undergraduate. Beside the poet’s question, the student had inked, “Isn’t it grass?”
MARK DOTY is the author of the National Book Award-winning poetry collection, Fire to Fire. He has also written eight other collections of poetry, including Deep Lane (Norton, 2015). His five books of nonfiction prose include Dog Years, a New York Times bestseller, and Heaven’s Coast, winner of the PEN/Martha Albrand Award. What is the Grass, an exploration of his longstanding fascination with Walt Whitman, will be published by Norton in 2019, the 200th anniversary of Whitman’s death.
This is a small representation of the high-quality writings you’ll find in every issue of TIFERET.
We receive no outside funding and rely on digital issues, workshop fees, and donations to publish. If you enjoy our journal’s verbal and visual offerings, we hope you’ll consider supporting us in one of these ways.Click Here to Purchase Digital Issues