Friday, June 13, 2014

Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself

Wow! I have to share this book. I've always loved Walt Whitman and especially Song of Myself. His expansive joy and love for everything and everyone is so wonderful. I don't know how he pulled it off without sounding like a sap, but of course he did. When I first read this poem I was in high school and I wasn't an artist, I was a musician. Even though I hadn't drawn anything since grade school, the imagery made me want to illustrate many of the passages. The musician in me also responded to the flow and rhythm of the Song.

As I grew into an artist, I often thought that I would like to do artwork for Song of Myself. But it's so overwhelming! Talk about an all-inclusive, jam-packed, marathon of a poem! So, even though he didn't illustrate it anything like the vision I have, I'm amazed at the stamina of illustrator Allen Crawford.  What a big project and so beautifully done! I love the graphic quality of the artwork, the hand lettering, the quirky layout of the text, the simple colors, and the attention to the design of the book. It's gorgeous!

The two spreads below have my favorite part of the poem. Although I love the look of the text handwritten in every direction, it's hard to read. So I included it below. I still have my own imagery for this passage swimming around in the back of my head and maybe I'll do it one day!

I am he that walks with the tender and growing night,
I call to the earth and sea half-held by the night.

Press close bare-bosom’d night—press close magnetic nourishing night!
Night of south winds—night of the large few stars!
Still nodding night—mad naked summer night.

Smile O voluptuous cool-breath’d earth!
Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees!
Earth of departed sunset—earth of the mountains misty-topt!
Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon just tinged with blue!
Earth of shine and dark mottling the tide of the river!
Earth of the limpid gray of clouds brighter and clearer for my sake!
Far-swooping elbow’d earth—rich apple-blossom’d earth!
Smile, for your lover comes.

--- Walt Whitman from Song of Myself

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