Walt Whitman’s iconic 1855 poem “Song of Myself” has stood the test of time and is now regarded as one of the most acclaimed and influential poems written by an American. New Jersey illustrator Allen Crawford sings the poet’s praises in his new book, “Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself.”
Walt Whitman’s iconic 1855 poem “Song of Myself” has stood the test of time and is now regarded as one of the most acclaimed and influential poems written by an American. Whitman spent the last decades of his life in Laurel Springs and Camden, N.J., where he’s buried.
Another South Jersey resident, illustrator and writer Allen Crawford, also sings the praises to Whitman in his new book, “Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself.”
“I suppose I’m steeped in all things Whitman,” says Crawford. “For me it’s a lifelong interest.”
Crawford says he was inspired to do the illustrated text in part by an Ohio librarian who took on the monumental task of illustrating every page of “Moby Dick.”
“The way I look at it is that it is a travel log through Whitman’s text,” says Crawford. “It was a visual journal as I went through the text, and some of these are illustrations — and I don’t know if they necessarily all are — I’m using the text as a sounding board. I’m responding to it.”
Crawford says he was also passionate about creating a beautiful object, especially in a literary world increasingly moving toward digital devices.
“I wanted something that really relished in the material qualities of a book and the sensed qualities of a book,” says Crawford. “From what I’ve seen, we have this sort of interesting polarization in publishing right now where you have people that are wanting everything to be on electronic media … and then there’s a few of us who are bucking that trend, trying to make this body of work, these books that are as lushly produced as they can possibly be, and kind of create a fetish object out of the book, make it into almost an emblem.”
“Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself” will be out in bookstores next month.