Whitman worked on his Leaves of Grass into his final decade, excluding his last, hybrid collections of poetry and prose from the pages of Leaves proper. These works, representing his final decade of poetic productivity, were bound with the rest, but only as “annexes,” a move that captures the supplementary logic that defines Whitman's late work and governs its critical reception. When critics do not ignore Whitman's late poetry, they tend to regard it as echo or afterthought, as an increasingly conventional combination of attenuated affirmation and old-age complaint. Are these critical judgments justified? And what new stories might we be able to tell about Whitman in age? After reviewing the remarkably consistent neglect of Whitman's late work in the essay's first section, the second section documents a quiet effort at recovery that began in the mid-1970s. This recovery effort charts a course for a more nuanced and layered account of the poet's multifaceted and fittingly contradictory late work.

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