Lost Walt Whitman Poem Found in 1842 Newspaper

Professor meticulously proved the poem was indeed a Whitman creation
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2014 11:40 AM CST
Lost Walt Whitman Poem Found in 1842 Newspaper
This handout photo provided by the National Portrait Gallery shows Walt Whitman, by G. Frank E. Pearsall.   (AP Photo/G. Frank E. Pearsall, National Portrait Gallery)

"If you want me again, look for me under your boot-soles"—or perhaps in a 19th-century penny newspaper, if you're Walt Whitman. Library of Congress archives, an eagle eye, and a husband who happens to be a Whitman expert all combined to help a University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor unearth a long-lost poem from the Leaves of Grass bard, the Lincoln Journal Star reports. Wendy Katz spotted the 15-line "To Bryant, the Poet of Nature" in the June 23, 1842, edition of the New Era, with the initials "W.W." at the bottom (a common practice back then instead of full bylines, the Star notes). And while those initials could have belonged to practically anyone, Katz's careful research convinced the peer-reviewed Walt Whitman Quarterly Review it was a genuine Whitman creation.

First Katz showed the poem to husband Kenneth Price, co-director of the Walt Whitman Archive. Price said it was possible the poem was Whitman's, based on the time period and the initials, but Katz kept investigating: She connected the dots between Whitman, his friend and fellow poet William Cullen Bryant (whom the poem is about), and New Era editor Parke Godwin, who was Bryant's son-in-law. "It [seemed] clear to me that they all knew each other and were writing for each other's papers," Katz tells the Star. The newly found poem also meshes with Whitman's known works, in both theme and in what the Star calls the "more conventional and predictable" (Price adds "boring") style of his early newspaper verse, rather than the more experimental style he became known for later. (Twenty unseen Pablo Neruda poems were found in boxes this summer.)

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