The first edition of "Leaves of Grass" had received little attention until a positive review appeared, in fact written by Walt Whitman himself. Described by Emily Dickinson as "disgraceful" and by Emerson as "the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America had yet contributed to world literature", the book went on to provoke strong ...
The first edition of "Leaves of Grass" had received little attention until a positive review appeared, in fact written by Walt Whitman himself. Described by Emily Dickinson as "disgraceful" and by Emerson as "the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America had yet contributed to world literature", the book went on to provoke strong reactions from its readers. It is not only the allusions to sex and physiology that disturbed Whitman's critics but also his departure from the rules of conventional poetry. He broke down the standard metered line, discarded the obligatory rhyming scheme and freely expressed himself in the living vernacular of American speech. Today Whitman is regarded as America's Homer or Dante, and his work as the touchstone for literary originality in the New World. Whitman saw his verses as more than a "literary performance", they were an expression of his own "emotional and other personal nature". In this sense "Leaves of Grass" is autobiography, but the poet's vision embraces the vigorous spirit of the whole American nation. This edition reproduces the 1891-2 text and includes Whitman's Preface to the 1855 edition as well as Emerson's famous letter of 1855 greeting Whitman "at the beginning of a great career".
You may like Walt Whitman or you may not, but you can't claim to know American literature if you've never read Whitman. There it is. Get used to it. If it helps any, remember: you only have to do it once. Wear a bib, you won't get any on ya!
Jul 2, 2007
One should slowly drink in Whitman, take your time and savour it like a fine aged wine. I most enjoy The Body Electric among his many great works, all in one volume. I thought how odd that he appeared such a rugged, almost cowboy like, tough exterior of a man, to write such passionate, deep, and profusely beautiful poetry. Awww we are not what we look like. Leaves of Grass stands alone as an exceptional and wonderful piece of work.
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