Luczak, Raymond. “The Kiss of Walt Whitman Still on My Lips”, Squares and Rebels, 2016.
A Unified Vision of Love
In “The Kiss of Walt Whitman Still on My Lips”, Raymond Luczak recounts his unrequited love for a gardener while examining how Walt Whitman (1819-1892) lived as a gay man 150 years before. If you have read Whitman, you are aware of the way his poetry is infused with passion and while it may not come across as the way we see passion today, it provides a jumping off point for Luczak as he writes about how society and social changes have changed in the last century and a half. It is as if Luczak has inherited Whitman’s place poetically speaking and this is my opinion based upon what I read here. We read references here to Oscar Wilde who actually said that he still had the kiss of Whitman still on his lips, as well as Boyd Mcdonald, Gavin Arthur, Edward Carpenter and Thomas Eakins.
The poetry here is quite bold as Luczak presents his unified vision of love by incorporating all aspects of his definition of love including “all of its poetic manifestations: sensual, sexual, and textual, a source of electric vistas and voluptuous possibilities of spiritual renewal”. He also shares that it is not always possible to find the words necessary to express feelings. Luczak finds a sense of communion by maintaining a kind of communication with Whitman and, in effect, “uses” (for lack of a better word”) that communion to speak with his muse and to develop the way he feels about the unrequited love he feels for his gardener. (If I seem to be fumbling for words here, it is because I am…. What Luczak says here is so powerful that I find myself often shaking as I write). I am almost tempted to say that this is a non-poem poem in the way that it captures gay love both historically and in terms of modernity. I am terribly afraid of using the incorrect word to describe what I have read here lest MY interpretation becomes muddled. I find myself feeling as I did the first time I stood in front of a Picasso that reflected everything I ever felt in brushstrokes that I could never achieve.
“What now, Walt, do you think of today’s porn stars?
Their humongous cocks are perpetually stiff… They rarely smile at each other. No joy.”
“Things were simpler for men like us in your time”.
Poetry was also simpler back then when Whitman wrote of nature and instant gratification had not yet replaced love as a way to pass the time. I do not think we can read Luczak openly as we can read Whitman but then we did not have the freedom to love back then as we have today. Each word stuns me here and the best review that I can give is a non-review but an urging to find a copy of this wonderful excursion into gay love and read and savor it. You will not be the same person afterwards.