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Diane Ackerman

Diane Ackerman is the author of more than twenty books of poetry and nonfiction, including A Natural History of the Senses (Vintage, 1990) and The Zookeeper’s Wife: A Love Story (Norton, 2007), which won the Orion Book Award. Her many honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Poets Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Panes of Glass

Spring 2005 | Essays

America had many poets before Walt Whitman, but there was never an American poet before he held the country in the sea-to-sea embrace of his imagination, named its wonders like a latter-day Adam, proclaimed its common men and women to have lives of sparkling beauty and dignity, blessed it as good, and then revealed it to itself in all its bustling, fidgeting, trail-blazing, huckstering, big, booming, melting-pot panorama. He especially loved America’s social “turbulence,” which was its lifeblood and the perfect parallel to its wild, unbridled landscapes. Whitman’s portrait of America is rich with sensations and unnervingly complex, but he also saw it whole, as one democratic fabric, where “a great personal deed has room.”