One of the great innovative figures in American letters, Walt Whitman created a daringly new kind of poetry that became a major force in world literature. Leaves Of Grass is his one book. First published in 1855 with only twelve poems, it was greeted by Ralph Waldo Emerson as "the wonderful gift . . . the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed." Over the course of Whitman's life, the book reappeared in many versions, expanded and transformed as the author's experiences and the nation's history changed and grew. Whitman's ambition was to creates something uniquely American. In that he succeeded. His poems have been woven into the very fabric of the American character. From his solemn masterpieces "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" and "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" to the joyous freedom of "Song of Myself," "I Sing the Body Electric," and "Song of the Open Road," Whitman's work lives on, an inspiration to the poets of later generations.
About the Author
Walt Whitman was an American poet and writer born in New York in 1819. Despite his family's financial troubles, Whitman attended school and, after graduating at age eleven, worked in a lawyer's office before becoming a printer's apprentice. Before he had even turned sixteen Whitman began anonymously publishing his poetry at the Long Island Star, where he worked. After leaving the Star, Whitman moved through several jobs including teaching, publishing and typesetting. Eventually, though, Whitman determined to make his living writing poetry, and paid for the first publication of Leaves of Grass himself when he was thirty-seven. At the time of its publication, Leaves of Grass was met with controversy and was criticized for its overtly sexual themes, however, but it has since come to be one of the most important works in early American literature and a product of the transcendentalist movement. Whitman died in 1892 at the age of seventy-two.
"Whitman's best poems have that permanent quality of being freshly painted, of not being dulled by the varnish of the years." --Malcolm Cowley