A review of The Tao of Walt Whitman by Connie Shaw and Ike Allen

Reviewed by Sheri Harper

The Tao of Walt Whitman
by Connie Shaw and Ike Allen
Sentient Publications
ISBN: 978-1-59181-104-6, March 2011, Paperback: 222 pages

The Tao of Walt Whitman by Connie Shaw and Ike Allen is an inspirational collection of lines from the poems in Walt Whitman’s “A Few Green Leaves.” The authors selected the poetry to fit into a variety of topics, one topic for each week of the year. Topics range from truth through celebration with the latter very thoughtfully selected for the post-Christmas fun. Added to each topic, the authors provide skillful suggestions about how a person can alter their views by examining the topic of the week more fully.

One of the nicest things about this selection is that I obtained a much richer appreciation for Walt Whitman’s poetry. I have A Few Green Leaves on my shelf and tend to avoid reading it because of his formal style. The lines selected convinced me to admire Walt Whitman’s work.

As a poet and author, I found the book offered many useful writing prompts. For non-writers, there are many suggestions about how to live a healthy and emotionally rich life. Seniors especially retired seniors might use this book to liven their life. Books clubs might find this book a fun way to open their discussions since most of the topics provide plenty fruit for thought.

An example of how Connie Shaw and Ike Allen have put this collection together is as follows:

Week 27: Shadow

Lines from Walt Whitman: Two great hulls motionless on the breast of the darkness,

Our vessel riddled and slowly sinking.

Guide from the authors: What sinks your vessel? When you are deep in the shadows of your life, what do you see? Write a page or two about it.

Most Sundays on each week share the author’s explanation of the difficulties they have had. One included the idea that they meant to walk for at least a half hour a day, but didn’t accomplish it. Such small goals are often the way seniors help to maintain their strength, energy, and commitment to staying healthy and alive. Others discuss family, what brings happiness, witnessing the world and other such topics that may arise in day to day life.

The way this book is created can offer anyone a guide to looking further into the many experiences that life offers. The table of contents offers a subject guide that allows the reader to go directly to that topic i.e. death, silence, wildness, wonder, practicality. The week by week guide allows the reader to follow in the steps of the author with a daily look at some new topic or experience. The poetry selected by the author helps to build an appreciation of the many ideas considered by Walt Whitman, looking at snippets from his overall work may allow poets to appreciate how thoughtful he was and seek to follow in his steps.

Overall, I was quite delighted with this book and it will likely stay on my shelf for a long time.

About the reviewer: Sheri Fresonke Harper is a poet and writer. She’s been published in many small journals and is working on her second science fiction novel. See www.sfharper.com