The Torch

Valparaiso University Professor of English Martin Buinicki has been appointed to the Editorial Advisory Board at the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review. 

Buinicki has been writing about Whitman for many years. 

“The reason it’s [the board position] meaningful to me is sort of the culmination of years of work. I studied Whitman in graduate school with one of the great Whitman scholars in the world,” said Buinicki. “And I wrote a chapter of my dissertation on Walt Whitman that became my first book. I also write several articles on Walt Whitman. My second book is on Walt Whitman.”

Buinicki has also worked with the journal on and off over the years by peer reviewing articles on Whitman that were submitted to the journal. 

“I don’t get to know who wrote it and they ask me whether it can be published or what suggestions I would have for improving it. So I’ve done that on and off for several years, especially when it had to do with issues that I know quite a bit about,” Buinicki said. 

He knows a lot about Whitman, especially his Civil War writings, but was still surprised by the board position offer. 

“I have certain areas of expertise and so it kind of came out of the blue when I received the invitation to be on the board, but I consider it a really great honor because these are people whose work I’ve admired,” Buinicki said. 

He is honored to now be an official member of the board. 

“It really means a lot to me that now that I’m in that company and that they consider me qualified enough to be a part of the board full time,” Buinicki said. 

Buinicki believes that he was selected for the board as a result of his previous experience working for them. 

“It’s the kind of work that I have been doing on and off for a while and I think that’s why they asked me. They knew I could do it as I have done in the past,” Buinicki said.

One of his responsibilities will be reviewing material that is submitted to the journal. 

“First of all it will formalize that peer review process... I’ll be reviewing the way they explained it to me, one to three manuscript submissions a year,” Buinicki said. 

Another one of his duties is to write reviews for books on Whitman’s works. 

“They may occasionally also ask me to write book reviews for new published books on Walt Whitman that would get published in the journal,” Buinicki said.

The editorial board will also help make decisions regarding the future of the journal. 

“So the most significant thing was that a few years ago they decided to go online. Well, rather than just the editor in chief making that decision, the editorial board weighed in,” Buinicki said. “Maybe we need to be the Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson Quarterly. There would be questions about whether or not we need to broaden our audience or change our focus.”

The other board members are from all over the globe. 

“If you look at the list of names, it’s scholars from all over the United States and Europe. One of the things about Whitman is that he’s kind of a global poet, and so I think at least one of the scholars is from a university in Germany,” Buinicki said.

He is looking forward to keeping up with the Whitman scholarship. 

“I’ve done it for quite a while now, so I'm hoping that was something they took into account. I would say another thing that makes me very honored to be on the board is [it’s] a great way to keep up with the field,” Buinicki said. “People in graduate school or people who make new discoveries which is part of why the journal is so important because it really does help get new information out to the world.”

Recently, a new Whitman work was discovered.

“Now that I was actually able to review that book when it was re-published, I think that it is really exciting to be on this board because I’ll get to see the discoveries as they happen,” Buinicki said. “It is hard to imagine that we’re still learning things about someone who died in 1891, but that’s what’s so cool about it too.”

Buinicki used to be infuriated by Whitman. 

“Really, for me, it’s interesting. When I was an undergraduate, Walt Whitman drove me crazy. I don’t know if you’ve ever read Walt Whitman. I mean the poems are very long,” he said. 

Then he took a Whitman seminar. 

“I really did have this terrific professor in graduate school at the University of Iowa who taught a Walt Whitman seminar, and it just opened my eyes to all the possibilities that you can find with a poet like Whitman,” Buinicki said. 

Buinicki believes that we can use Whitman to analyze our current world. 

“People are looking to him and his poetry to try and understand our current political moment. If there was ever a moment that felt as fractured as we feel now, it’s the time after the Civil War,” Buinicki said. “I think people in the scholarship are really looking at Whitman and his writings to try and understand where we currently are.”


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