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Jean Huets  – Walt Whitman

Jean Heuts is a noted author whose writing has appeared in The New York Times, Kenyon Review, The Millions, North American Review, Ploughshares, On the Sea Wall, and Civil War Monitor.

She co-founded Circling Rivers, an independent press dedicated to poetry and literary nonfiction.

Ms. Heuts is a member of James River Writers and National Book Critics Circle.

Selected works

  • With Walt Whitman, Himself

  • The Bones You Have Cast Down, a novel set in late medieval Italy

  • The Cosmic Tarot book, based on the tarot deck by German visionary artist Norbert Lösche

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Episode #1

Q: Your background & how you became interested in Walt Whitman?


  • European background

  • Outsider like Whitman

  • Interest from college course

  • 19th century – time of change, tumult

  • Period of “American Literature”

Episode #2

Q: What were the major early influences that shaped Whitman?


  • Born 1819, Quaker roots

  • Raised in New York

  • Thomas Paine - detached from the Bible

  • Many literary influences – read like crazy

Episode #3

Q: What makes Leaves of Grass such a compelling ”American” poem?


  • Emerson – American poetry needs its own voice

  • Leaves – The Great American Poem

  • Evolved & took from all parts of his life

Episode #4

Q: What is your favorite Whitman poem and why?


  • “To A Stanger”

  • The way I’d like to see people

  • Strangers – people we actually know

  • How we can be together

Episode #5

Q:  What were Whitman’s views regarding slavery?


  • Completely opposed to slavery

  • Not a real abolitionist

  • Preserving the Union was essential

  • Served as a nurse in Washington D.C. during Civil War

Episode #6

Q: Did Whitman write prose?


  • Lots of prose

  • Temperance novel (fortified by whiskey)

  • Lots of journalistic pieces

Episode #7

Q: Did Whitman mention or allude to Jews / Jewish People in any of his works?


  • General allusions – “The Hebrews”

  • Horace Traubel – Jewish friend & biographer

  • Well versed in the Bible

  • Russian programs – cruel and barbarous treatment

  • Open to immigration

Episode #8

Q: Why was Whitman so influential among “Jewish” poets?


  • Touches upon issue of (American) Jewish identity

  • Allen Ginsburg & Karl Shapiro

  • Dr. Barnett, Tel Aviv University – they found a spirituality in Whitman

Episode #9

Q: What can young people learn today from Whitman and his poems?


  • Whitman never gave up

  • Believe in yourself and people

  • Poetry can cultivate your inner sacred pride

Full Interview - Jean Huets

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