How Walt Whitman disguised his poems about male love

Sarah Poole in University of Virginia Magazine:

Fredson Bowers didn’t know what he would find when he began digging into the disordered stack of 230 loose pages—all from 19th-century Walt Whitman manuscripts—that landed on his desk in 1951.

But for Bowers, a revered UVA English professor, the papers formed a massive puzzle waiting to be fit together. They were an “opportunity for literary detective work … that was of the highest interest to attempt,” he wrote in 1959.

Bowers solved the puzzle—or part of it—when he discovered within that pile the unpublished original sequence for 12 poems, together called “Live Oak, with Moss,” that were distributed throughout a section of the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass.

The revelation of that sequence, illuminated by Bowers’ painstaking research, opened a door to insights that would change the way scholars looked at Whitman.

Unlike most of his work, “Live Oak” addresses themes of love. Scholars believe Whitman wrote the sequence after a relationship with a man named Fred Vaughan.

More here.