What is the Grass: Walt Whitman in My Life

David Wheatley at Literary Review:

Academic critics of Dryden or Pope were not in the habit, the last time I checked, of interspersing their monographs with reminiscences of sex clubs in Manhattan. An affectionate excursus on that subject in Mark Doty’s What is the Grass announces that this is no ordinary piece of literary criticism. ‘And your very flesh shall be a great poem,’ wrote Doty’s subject, Walt Whitman, who, one suspects, wouldn’t have minded a bit. Perhaps best known for his 1993 collection My Alexandria, prompted by the AIDS pandemic, Doty is one of the most compelling modern singers of ‘the body electric’ and in What is the Grass he has produced an elegant meditation on the great founding father of American poetry. Not only did Whitman’s example fire up the democratic modern lyrics of W C Williams and Allen Ginsberg; it also licensed poets to place themselves centre stage in their prose, from Adrienne Rich in What is Found There to Susan Howe in her prose-poetry hybrids. It is a licence that Doty seizes on greedily.

more here.