The famed illustrator will bring to life some of the less-heralded, most personal poems

By David Canfield
August 20, 2018 at 02:00 PM EDT
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Credit: Abrams

A fascinating new project combining the minds of lauded illustrator Brian Selznick (The Invention of Hugo Cabret) and the late poet Walt Whitman will publish early next year by Abrams ComicArts, EW can announce exclusively.

The book is Live Oak, With Moss, which features a series of little-known queer poems written by Whitman, meditations on an affair he had with another man, accompanied by original, provocative illustrations by Selznick. Whitman wrote the 12 poems when he was around 40 years old, each reflections on his attraction and affection for other men which featured his most adventurous explorations of the theme of same-sex love. “This revolutionary, extraordinarily beautiful, and passionate cluster of poems was never published by Whitman during his lifetime and has remained unknown to the general public — until now,” Abrams says.

“I met the legendary illustrator Maurice Sendak at a book signing, and we quickly became friends,” Selznick said in a statement to EW. “Coincidentally he was reading Walt Whitman for the first time, and I had just finished a children’s book about the poet. Maurice told me an incredible story about a sequence of poems Whitman had written about a love affair he had with another man that he never published. Instead he cut up the poems, rearranged them, and hid them in Leaves of Grass. The poetry sequence remained secret for a hundred years until it was discovered, pieced back together, and named Live Oak, with Moss. It was my friend Karen Karbiener who suggested I create a book from these poems. I hope Maurice would have approved.”

Added Tamar Brazis, editorial director of Abrams ComicArts: “I’ve had the privilege of knowing Brian Selznick for more than twenty years, and during that time we’ve had many conversations about our mutual love of Walt Whitman. Brian can make a visual book unlike anyone else, and this important text is the perfect subject for his first illustrated adult book.”

In this ambitious project, Selznick has filled out more than 100 pages of original images to create a visual narrative around Whitman’s work, in order to newly interpret and explore the iconic poet’s work. Below, you can see exclusive interiors from the book provided by Abrams.

Live Oak, With Moss publishes April 9, 2019. Check out our preview of the book below, and pre-order it here.

Credit: Abrams
Credit: Abrams
Credit: Abrams