Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Now The Drum of War - Robert Roper

Walt Whitman was undoubtedly one of the most influential American poets and is hailed as the father of free verse. Personally, I have a love for Whitman, and even featured an excerpt from one of this poems on the inscription page of my doctoral thesis.

Robert Roper has compiled and written a detailed and fascinating biography of Walt Whitman and the Whitman family during the time of the American Civil War. Whitman was part of a larage family wsho undertook frequent correspondance with each other for the duration of their lives. Roper does not follow the common trend amongst Whitman biographers to dismiss his mother as unimportant and uneducated. Instead he places her firmly at the centre of their family life. He follows her from rented house to rented house as the family moved and features excerpts from the many letters that were exchanged between her, her sons and daughter-in-law.

Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" was the great work of his career but was denounced as a work of moral obscenity. There have been many debates over the years concerning Whitman's sexuality but these days it is more commonly accepted that he was homosexual.

During the Civil War, Whitman spent most of his days sitting in many of the soldiers' hospital that were dotted around Washington D.C. He would bring the soldiers small gifts and food and would sit with them for ages while they waited to die or recover. At this time, Walt's brother George, was fighting with the 51st New York Infantry and Roper frequently visits George's experiences. His tough and bitterly fought war makes an interesting counterpoint to the life Walt led in Washington.

This is an unusual take on the Civil War. It is a mix of military history, sociology and poetry. It is clearly extremely well-researched and is compelling reading.

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