Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Listen America: A Life of Walt Whitman, Adrien Stoutenburg and Laura Nelson Baker provide a chronologically structured account of the important events and personal relationships in Whitman’s long life. The book is divided into eleven “phases”; early chapters are more general and discuss the poet’s nature and inclinations, while later chapters become more focused on individual and formative events in the poet’s life. For example, chapter 1 (“A Child Went Forth”) deals with Whitman’s family history, immediate family, schooling, work, and the first seventeen years of his life, while by chapter 7 (“I Give You My Sprig of Lilac”) the authors focus on Abraham Lincoln’s death and its effect on Whitman, both personally and artistically. The reader becomes acquainted with Whitman more specifically and intimately with each successive chapter.

Each chapter name is a contextually appropriate line borrowed from one of Whit-man’s poems. The lines of poetry appear in the body of the chapter as well, often included with the poem in its entirety. Many other poems appear throughout the book not only in places corresponding to the dates when the poems were written but also in sections in which the contents of the poems match the events in Whitman’s life.

Along with Whitman’s own poetry and extracts from his journal, Stoutenburg and Baker provide the impressions and direct quotations of many of Whitman’s friends and...

(The entire section is 463 words.)