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In this book we get to know the young men whom Whitman loved, and who loved him, beginning with Fred Vaughan, who inspired the Calamus poems -- the cycle in which Whitman celebrates "manly attachments", "athletic love", and the "dear love of comrades".
Charley Shively has collected and edited letters to and from Whitman and his young, working class lovers, and has provided his own introduction and commentary. Some of the letters are very moving, especially those from Fred Vaughan, in which he describes his life, married and with family, after leaving Whitman.
The book ends with "Bathing My Songs In Sex", Shively's own selection of Whitman's gayest poems. His guiding principles: "Out of all the versions of a poem, I have opted for the most erotic reading; otherwise I've incorporated the version which reads best." The approach works splendidly. We get Whitman's best poems as he really intended them -- not suppressed or
emasculated, either by editors or Whitman himself. (Whitman's revisions were often a form of bowdlerization, in which the poems became progressively less personal and erotic.)
This is an absolutely essential book for every Whitman lover.
Author: Charley Shively
Paperback Published 1987 224 pages