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Meena Alexander

Meena Alexander is the author of Illiterate Heart (Winner of a 2002 PEN Open Book Award) and Raw Silk (2004), both published by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern, and the memoir Fault Lines. She is Distinguished Professor of English at Hunter College and the Graduate Centre, CUNY.


In Whitman’s Country

Spring 2005 | Essays

I cannot imagine myself in America without Whitman.

Sometimes, in times of difficulty, when reinvention of the self is a fierce necessity—a time such as now—I think of myself as having been wafted here by Walt, a creature with a tumbling grey beard, cap askew, bony wings sprouting out of his corduroy jacket. 

There are bits of grass in his mouth, and when I am about to pass out, with all the air gushing through—we make a curious kind of airplane together—he pushes a few stalks into my mouth. The grass is filled with moisture, rather cold and glittery, and the bits of ice on the blades help moisten my tongue. I totter a little with the unsteadiness of it all. Am I on a “trottoir,” as he called it? Am I really in Mannahatta?