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Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself – a work of art in its own right

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This illustrated edition of Walt Whitman’s epic poem from Leaves of Grass is a heartfelt, sexy tribute to the Good Gray Poet

At the end of Song of Myself, the epic poem at the heart of Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman invites us, his readers, to look for him beneath the soles of our boots. In turn, Allen Crawford, the American artist who has taken it upon himself to illustrate Whitman’s 60-page poem, protracting it along the way into 234 elaborately designed pages, hopes that we will find a little of the poet “under his pen”. He knows that it’s pretty “presumptuous” of him to have to attached his own name to Whitman’s, but he hopes to have atoned for this with his labour. And what labour it was! In a brief foreword, Crawford describes the process involved in his book’s creation. Each two-page spread took him between eight and 10 hours to complete; the whole thing consumed 2,560 hours of his life. During the winter, he slaved away in his Pennsylvania basement encased in several dressing gowns, boots and a Russian fur hat. His hands became so sore, he would go to bed with them slathered in cream and covered with a sock “like an ageing baseball player”.

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