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University of Iowa News Release


March 29, 2011

UI Press releases two new volumes of literary scholarship April 1

The University of Iowa Press will release two new volumes of literary scholarship on April 1 -- "Walt Whitman's Songs of Male Intimacy and Love: 'Live Oak, with Moss' and 'Calamus'" edited by Betsy Erkkila and "Postliterary America: From Bagel Shop Jazz to Micropoetries" by Maria Damon.

Erkkila's compilation is part of the Iowa Whitman Series, edited by Ed Folsom, and "Postliterary America" is an addition to the Contemporary North American Poetry Series from the UI Press, edited by Alan Golding, Lynn Keller and Adalaide Morris.

One hundred fifty years after Whitman's decision to speak publicly about a fully realized democracy, his country is still locked in a struggle about the rights of homosexuals. These public battles have been at the very center of controversies over his life, work and legacy.

In "Live Oak, with Moss," Whitman's 1859 unpublished sheaf of 12 poems on manly passion, the poet dreams of a city where men who love men can live and love openly. The revised "Live Oak, with Moss" poems became "Calamus," Whitman's cluster of poems on "adhesive" and manly love, comradeship and democracy," in "Leaves of Grass."

Commemorating both the first publication of the "Calamus" poems and the little-known manuscript of notebook poems out of which the "Calamus" cluster grew, Whitman scholar Erkkila brings together in a single edition for the first time facsimiles of the "Live Oak, with Moss" poems, the 1860 "Calamus" poems and the final 1881 "Calamus" poems.

She discusses the radical nature of these poems in literary, sexual and social history; the changes Whitman made in the "Live Oak" and "Calamus" poems in the post–Civil War and Reconstruction years; the literary, political and other contests surrounding the poems; and the constitutive role the poems have played in the emergence of modern heterosexual and homosexual identity in the United States and worldwide.

Erkkila is the Henry Sanborn Noyes Professor of Literature at Northwestern University. She is the author of "Mixed Bloods and Other American Crosses: Rethinking American Literature from the Revolution to the Culture Wars," "The Wicked Sisters: Women Poets, Literary History, and Discord," "Whitman the Political Poet," and "Walt Whitman among the French: Poet and Myth."

"Postliterary America" surveys the poetry and culture of the United States in the 1950s and early 1960s, when contentious and troubled alliances took shape between marginalized communities -— Jews, African Americans, the Beats, and gays and lesbians. Using a rich trove of texts and artifacts -—ranging from Gertrude Stein's writings about her own Jewishness to transcripts from Lenny Bruce's obscenity trial ad Bob Kaufman's Beat poetry -— as well as her own stake in the material, Damon plumbs the complexities of social identity and expressive cultures.

She then turns to more contemporary issues and broader topics of poetics: micropoetries, cyberpoetics, spoken-word poets, performance poets and their communities. She dwells less on close readings of individual poems and more on asking questions about the nature of poetry itself and its role in community formation and individual survival.

Aldon Nielsen, the author of "Integral Music: Languages of African American Innovation," wrote, "Maria Damon sets us on a path toward a poetics of culture that has long been promised by prominent scholars within the cultural studies sphere but, until now, seldom delivered. 'Postliterary America: From Bagel Shop Jazz to Micropoetries' provides a rare juxtaposition of poetics, race, ethnicity and gender, showing how 'insider' art made by 'outsiders' becomes canonical and how innovative literature enters the mainstream."

Damon is a professor in the Department of English at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities and a faculty affiliate of Minnesota's Department of American Studies; Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality; Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature; Department of Theatre Arts and Dance; and Center for Jewish Studies.

She is the author of "The Dark End of the Street: Margins in American Vanguard Poetry" and coeditor of "Poetry and Cultural Studies: A Reader." She has also co-written "The Secret Life of Words: Poetry Exercises and Activities, Grades 3–6."

The books will be available at bookstores or directly from the UI Press, 800-621-2736 or Customers in Europe, the Middle East or Africa may order from Eurospan Group at The Whitman volume is also available as a pdf e-book:

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTs: UI Press: Winston Barclay, University News Services,