Much has been written about Poet of the Body, the Walt Whitman exhibition at the Grolier Club in New York City. But for those of you who won’t have the chance to see it before it closes on July 27, never fear: a hardcover exhibition companion book — we hesitate to call it a catalogue — is a fine stand-in.
It is brimming, of course, with incredible color illustrations of manuscripts, various editions of Whitman’s books, and related artifacts. My favorites are the quirkier, seldom-seen pieces that an exhibition (or catalogue) like this offers up for public view. For example, Whitman’s 1852 season ticket for the Brooklyn Marine Swimming Baths, a restaurant token to one of his frequent haunts, or an original brass sunrise/sunset die used in the cover design of the third edition of Leaves of Grass.
Beyond biography and checklist, this volume admirably delves into the poet’s relationship to photography, as well as his focus on copyright issues. Most compelling, however, is the section that discusses Whitman’s afterlife, i.e., the ways in which he and his image have been collected, used, and manipulated, even by the likes of musician Iggy Pop.
The exhibition’s curatorial team, which includes collector Susan Jaffe Tane, Dr. Karen Karbiener, Julie Carlsen, and Gabriel Mckee, wrote the book, and the Grolier Club did an exceptional job with its production; the pink dust jacket, purple cloth binding, and vintage map endpapers are all eye-catching.