If the World Were Walt’s

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In Walt We TrustIn Walt We Trust: How a Queer Socialist
Poet Can Save America From Itself

by John Marsh
Monthly Review Press. 248 pages, $25.

 

JOHN MARSH proposes something here that may cause many readers to shake a skeptical head, but hear him out. In Walt We Trust addresses our generally fixed beliefs about death, money, sex, and democracy, and proposes that the writings of Walt Whitman can serve as a guide on the path toward human connection and personal fulfillment. And it’s surprisingly powerful stuff.

Beginning with death, Marsh allows the edges of his atheism to be contoured slightly by Whitman’s musings while riding the East River Ferry, where the poet notes that many of the things he observes will remain after he’s gone, and thus preserve an echo of experience. Marsh parses Whitman’s advice to “despise riches” and finds room for production and earnings within it, albeit tempered by an admonition against greed at the expense of one’s passions in life. Things truly take off, however, when Marsh writes about sex and democracy.

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