Author Talks: Live Oak, with Moss: Walt Whitman's Secret Love Poems

April 1, 2019

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A scholar and illustrator bring to light the secret love poems of Walt Whitman. 

Live Oak, With MossFEATURING
- Paolo Javier
Karen Karbiener 
Brian Selznick

As he was turning forty, Walt Whitman composed a sequence of twelve poems and compiled them in a small handmade book he entitled Live Oak, With Moss—but never exactly published them. The verses describe an unhappy love affair with an unnamed man and are considered among the most adventurous and homoerotic work he ever wrote. Whitman pulled the twelve pieces apart in order to obliterate the narrative and rearranged them into other sections of "Calamus Lovers" section in Leaves of Grass. The original sequence was only restored by scholars in recent years, and has now been published with an essay by Whitman scholar Karen Karbiener and illustrated by Caldecott Award–winner Brian Selznick

On the occasion of Whitman’s bicentennial, Karbiener and Selznick speak about the original collection and make the case for it as a source of inspiration and cause for celebration. They are joined in conversation by Queens-based poet, Paolo Javier


Learn more about the Library's new exhibition Walt Whitman: America's Poet.

For free events, we generally overbook to ensure a full house. Priority will be given to those who have registered in advance, but registration does not guarantee admission. All registered seats are released shortly before start time, and seats may become available at that time. A standby line will form one hour before the program.

Please send all press inquiries (photo, video, interviews, audio-recording, etc.) at least 24-hours before the day of the program to Sara Beth Joren at For all other inquiries, please contact