Leaves of Grass
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Leaves of Grass, first published in 1855, contained twelve long untitled poems, but Whitman continued to expand it throughout his life. Whitman's poetry was unprecedented in its unapologetic joy in the physical and its inextricable link to the spiritual. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote to him: "I am very happy in reading [Leaves of Grass], as great power makes us happy ... I find incomparable things said incomparably well, as they must be."

Customer Reviews:

  • Whitman can be tedious but he's still important
    I have my issues with Walt Whitman's poetry.... but I cannot deny its importance. I think everyone should at least read a little of it. I've been forced to read Song of Myself so many times I can't stand it any more but somewhere in there are some really beautiful lines. But you have to deal with some... other ones sometimes. I don't really enjoy his poetry that much. I value it as important. This specific edition (ISBN: 0140421998) is a recreation of the very first edition of Leaves of Grass. Over the years Whitman added poems and changed some of these so you'd be reading the first draft of some things, so to speak. This is the best edition, in my opinion. It shows Whitman at his freshest and I think he second-guessed himself too much with some of the revisions. Plus this is a pretty thin edition so if you've never read Whitman then this could be a good starter. Don't get me wrong, people interested in poetry should read Whitman. But don't worry if you feel you must put it away afterwards....more info
  • Review of Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass"
    This thick soft-backed "pocket" book has 490 pages. It could be called The Complete Whitman. It contains hundreds of poems.
    I am a senior citizen who had not read any Whitman for more than 50 years and am enjoying it very much. His descriptions of the 19th century's people, places, and inventions are eye-openers. He was actually a feminist before there was such a concept, and also an abolitionist. He truly believed in equality and democracy. He was a nature lover and wanted to protect the environment.
    Of course, there are parts I could quibble about, but that would be foolish. Whitman was a man ahead of his time. ...more info
  • A looser
    I bought this and returned it. There must be someone out there with the right voice and reading skills to bring us Whitman's words and rhythms. Ms. Gibson's soprano sing-song doesn't make it. ...more info
  • my fave
    this has to be one of the most amazing colections of poerty i have read. i never really was one for this kind of poetry, but after giving it a try i realized how amazing it is and how it can change you. at least give it a try....more info
  • Don't Try to Read it at One Sitting
    Whitman is not the world's greatest poet - that's probably Shakespeare - but he's certainly been the most influential American poetic voice over the past century. He was the first poet to take all of American life as his subject. Ever the Romantic, Whitman was also the first poet to bring Romanticism into line with everyday reality.

    His narcissism can be annoying, but his panoramic descriptions of life and the imagination have a singularly cumulative power. Some of his short poems ("A Noiseless Patient Spider" and "To a Locomotive in Winter")are individually memorable. The longer poem "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed," indirectly about the Lincoln assassination, is brilliant. I think most of his Civil War poems are overpraised, but "Come Up from the Fields, Father" is a masterpiece of its kind.

    On the negative side, Whitman's transcendental philosophy, which he likes to indulge at length, will strike many readers as very sappy. His style, lots of details piled up on top of one another, grows monotonous, and readers who criticize his lack of traditional poetic craftsmanship cannot just be brushed off. My advice is to not to try to get through it all at once. The poems rarely become "difficult," they just tend to blur one into the other. Which may actually have been Whitman's intention.

    Overall,there's never been a book quite like "Leaves of Grass," in any edition, and that's why it keeps selling as a true classic. In other words, a very old book that people still buy and read and enjoy even when no teacher is telling them to. Reading it will get you as close as one book can to actually living in nineteenth-century America, with all its follies, inequities, and promise....more info
  • THE SOURCE of ALL American Prose/Poesy
    Hemingway said all American writing comes from one book, Huck Finn. Wrong! He also believed himself a better writer than Fitzgerald. Wrong! I'm no literary expert, I haven't gone to Harvard or Yale or any of those overpriced universities for spoiled rich kids but in my expert opinion all American literature: rhythm, length, flow, syntax, form, etc., came from one book & this is it. Henry Miller was spot-on when he said America has only produced one great writer & that is Walt Whitman. Hemingway's style wasn't jacked from Stein or Anderson, well, maybe a bit from Anderson, so much as Whitman. Yeah, I know Bloom has drawn a connection between Hemingway & Whitman before, the repetition-ploy & all that, but what I'm telling you, if you'll forgive the trite clich¨¦, there was poetry before Whitman & its wasn't the same after.
    If you're short on time, forget Wordsworth or Keats or all those other `lazing the daisy breeze' 19th century knuckleheads, read this book & memorize some quotes (to impress people at office holiday parties).
    Yes, I do believe this is the same book Clinton gave Lewinsky for her birthday. Wonder if there were any stains on it?
    ...more info
  • Complete and Satisfying
    Wonderful. I'm not sure how many times I have read this, or how many backpacking trips I have carried it on.

    It simply cannot be compared to any other piece of English Literature. Stimulating, erotic, challenging, hopeful yet complex in its understanding and interpretation of not only the world but our place in it.

    It's a classic, which means it is just as valid today as it was a million years before Whitman put pen to paper.

    I have several copies: one in my office at home and at work, one on my bedstand, and one I'm converting to Palm format....more info

  • The original lean, bursting on the scene, Whitman
    4 1/2 stars, really, but we can't do that. This is the original 1855 version. Whitman added to the collection throughout his life, ending up with an overstuffed and very uneven "deathbed" version, which is better known. There are some good poems in it which aren't in the original, such as When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd, but there's a lot of pretty weak stuff, too. The 1855 has a small number of pretty consistently excellent poems which are highly original and loosely but definitely connected. Reading it is a very different experience from wading through the bloated, inconsistent final version - there's something Whitmanesque (i.e., at it's best) about the original collection as a unit. Malcolm Cowley's introduction is also a bit wild and wooly (written in the late 60s or early 70s), but interesting and enlightening....more info
  • This was the first book I ever read.
    After reading this book in college I developed an unquenchable thurst for reading. Walt Whitman opened my eyes and my mind to the posibilities of what could be put onto paper. I had never really liked reading until I opened this book and have not stopped reading since. Walt was a true American. It is incredible that Walt Whitman can make accurate references in his poems to just about every facit of American life. It doesn't take very many pages before you feel as if Walt has been in your shoes, seen things through your eyes, thought the things you have thought and felt the feelings you have felt. I was amazed that he knew technical terms and proper methods for everything from building houses to sail a boat. He really does seem like he has been everywhere and done everything and that made it very easy to open up and accept his ideas for internal discussion.

    A must read....more info

  • The Strength of the Human Spirit
    Leaves of Grass is a classic collection of inspired poetry by one of the most foreword poets of his time. The poetry speaks of Walt Whitman's connection to his fellow man, nature, and to God. It is not to be missed.

    Leaves of Grass speaks to the turbulent times in which Whitman lived, being the Civil War era. He speaks out against the horror of war and he embraces the spirit of compassion for his comrades. Yet the book is also a reflection on matters relating largely to uplifting themes. His poetry has evoked thoughts about what is of value within my life. Even though it is the product of another era, it speaks to the timeless values of humankind.

    As the author of a spiritually-themed novel entitled "The Misadventures of Sister Mary Olga Fortitude," I look for books that provide food for my soul. This is one that certainly hit home for me. It is also a book written by a gay man. Since I am gay myself, I appreciated the affirming nature of Whitman who embraced his sexuality with little judgment. This was a remarkable example which reflected his inner peace during a time when being a homosexual was not accepted.

    Whether or not you are a man, woman, gay, or otherwise, this book will speak to you. It will help you to embrace humanity, your spirit, and all of creation

    Davis Aujourd'hui, author of "The Misadventures of Sister Mary Olga Fortitude"
    ...more info
  • Leaves of Grass
    Walt Whitman is one of the two most read poets by the American reading public. This is a classic and like Whitman, it covers every aspect of life, including his patriotism....more info
  • Poetry of the Ages
    You might want to read Richard Bucke's Cosmic Consciousness to more fully grasp the spiritual significance of Leaves of Grass. Bucke was a friend and contemporary of Whitman who placed him in the same league as the Christ, the Buddha, and other spiritual giants. Unfortunately, we seem more interested in Whitman's purported homosexuality than in the profundity of his life and work. Every line in Leaves of Grass has a deeper, spiritual meaning, and the careful reader can discover a New World waiting within its pages....more info
  • Excellent edition of Whitman's Masterwork
    Choosing the fullest, most complete version of Whitman's text, before the final editing of the deathbed edition, but following the additions made after the Civil War, the Norton Critical is a must have for students of poetry, or literature, and of nature. The wild, ecstatic hunger for the world, the ravishment of the senses, as Norman Mailer put it (though not about Whitman), the mysticism of the flesh, Whitman is, arguably, the most accomplished poet of American letters.

    A must read for poets, students, and pagans (Whitman as spirit of the Green Man himself!)....more info
  • Leaves of Grass
    In American Lit, probably matched only by "Moby-Dick." In poetry proper, Dickinson is a poetic equal, only on a "micro" road. Pound and Eliot, especialy the former, are brilliant: but the "Cantos" and "The Wasteland" cannot do the bump-shoulder thing with "Grass."

    "Song of Myself" goes a long way toward eliminating shrinks that haunt us.

    And "Children of Adam" finally liberates our sexier selves. Emerson conceived it; Whitman fulfilled it! Emerson was never really comfortable with sex--Whitman was. Only, It was who you knew....more info

  • Loverly
    What a lover?! I have fallen in love with Walt Whitman. One such as this writing such passionate things in those times or these...and with such candor. I am so thankful to have read this book. Beautiful....more info
  • An Incomparable Masterpiece
    Words cannot describe the complexity of Leaves of Grass. I am constantly amazed at how well Walt Whitman holds it all together, keeping is hand on one object while amorously praising another. Everything works in perfect cohesion...An unabashed love of self, of nature, of all that is divine and not divine. Leaves of Grass is a truly inspired work...its words are boundless and fluent, rising in an intoxicating crescendo of naked emotion. "I am the poet of the Body; and I am the poet of the Soul." Throughout Leaves of Grass there is an overwhelming theme of unity...unity of man and nature, of man and man, of man and God. Excitable sputterings of ageless wisdom become scattered, but somehow stay anchored to the intricate framework of the book. This sounds contradicting, and it is reminiscent of a line from the book --"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; (I am large-I contain multitudes.) After reading this book, you will delight in how large Walt Whitman is....more info
  • America's great religious book
    I carry a copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass with me where ever I go. I think that it is America's great religious book; it contains just about everything one would need to know to live a good life.

    Whitman published many different editions of this book. The one I carry is the 1892 "death-bed" eddition, which contains virtually all the poetry he ever published. However I also own the "first" edition, published in 1855. In this version the poems are published without titles, so that each poem stands on its own, without any images guiding the reader before hand. I recommend either edition - or both!...more info

  • Walt Whitman, A Cosmos
    Walt Whitman is the father of free verse and his main work, Leaves of Grass, is perhaps one of the greatest works by an American poet ever written.

    He was born on Long Island and grew up in Brooklyn. Being a native of Brooklyn myself I feel a deep connection to him. When I read his work I am instantly transported into his universe, a universe which is the domain of every man. For Walt Whitman was possibly the greatest democrat who ever lived.

    In his great poem, Song of Myself, his opening lines are: "I celebrate myself, and what I assume you shall assume, for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you." This is not only good old American horse sense, it's good science. For everything comes forth from that great source of life the sun, and none can be better for it, only different.

    Walt was a born visionary. And I surmise that he must have had quite a few mystical experiences before he set out to write his great poems. You can really get a sense of his mystical connection when you read poems like When I Heard The Learned Astronomer or even in Song of Myself when he proclaims: "There was never any more inception than there is now, nor any more youth or age than there is now; and will never be any more perfection than there is now, nor any more heaven or hell than there is now." Notice the emphasis on the word now. Mystics through the ages have said that God is beyond time, that God is the eternal presence, and that he exists in a timeless eternity sometimes referred to as the eternal now. I believe that's what Walt Whitman is telling us.

    I could go on and on singing the praises of Walt Whitman. His work is inexhaustable and profound and wise beyond measure. But there are innumerable books written about him. However, I believe to catch the essence of the man you have to read his poems. And if you let him in he will lead you to yourself and you will see the world through fresh eyes .... and you will see how the perennial grass covers only the outer layer of this our miraculous universe....more info

  • Excellent, expressive, innovative writing.
    Superb, the conversational technique is quite endearing. But, I disagree with a number of reviews (particularly American reviewers)who proclaim Whitman one of THE greatest poets: no he isn't. I wouldn't forget Shakespeare, Donne, Arnold, Keats, Blake, Shelley, Pushkin, Goethe, Rilke, Yeats and Eliot....more info
  • great thinker of his time
  • Oxford World's Classics version is the "Death-bed" edition from 1891
    More as a point of clarification than review: the Oxford World's Classics edition is not the 1855 edition. (All the comments & editorial reviews for various versions of Leaves of Grass seem to have all be funneled into the same place.)

    According to the "Note on the Text" in the Oxford edition, it is the "death-bed" edition published in 1891-92. It is based on the 1881 edition.

    If you want the original 1855 version, Penguin offers it. Search: "Leaves of Grass Penguin classics".

    In any case: the 5 stars are for Whitman. ...more info
  • 1855 EDITION
    According to the OUP website, this is the 1855 edition:

    "The publication of Leaves of Grass in July 1855 was a landmark event in literary history. Ralph Waldo Emerson judged the book 'the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom America has yet contributed.' Nothing like the volume had ever appeared before. Everything about it--the unusual jacket and title page, the exuberant preface, the twelve free-flowing, untitled poems embracing every realm of experience--was new. The 1855 edition broke new ground in its relaxed style, which prefigured free verse; in its sexual candor; in its images of racial bonding and democratic togetherness; and in the intensity of its affirmation of the sanctity of the physical world.

    "This Anniversary Edition captures the typeface, design and layout of the original edition supervised by Whitman himself. Today's readers get a sense of the 'ur-text' of Leaves of Grass, the first version of this historic volume, before Whitman made many revisions of both format and style. The volume also boasts an afterword by Whitman authority David Reynolds, in which he discusses the 1855 edition in its social and cultural contexts: its background, its reception, and its contributions to literary history. There is also an appendix containing the early responses to the volume, including Emerson's letter, Whitman's three self-reviews, and the twenty other known reviews published in various newspapers and magazines."

    Hope this helps.
    ...more info
  • Walt Whitman is a Great Read!!!!!
    If you love poetry, then this is a great read!!!...more info
  • Essential American poetry
    Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" is a collection of some of the finest American free-verse poetry ever written. Outward from his home on Brooklyn, Whitman soars out over our great nation, painting a sweeping portrait of mid-nineteenth century America and its diverse inhabitants. Whitman covers a panorama of ideas and themes, from lofty, aloof musings on the nature of man, to piercing depictions of the horrors of war. Gems of wisdom hang from Whitman's web of of verse like dew drops - easy to see but hard to grasp. This is a powerful work, and a never-ending source of beauty. Unfortunately for me, I am not a big fan of free verse, making this work harder for me to enjoy than I had hoped.

    Which edition do I recommend? That really depends on what you are looking for. If you are just interested in getting a taste of Whitman, I would recommend some of the abridged versions. I don't feel that reading all 700+ pages of Whitman's poetry is necessary for anyone but his biggest fans and students. For a complete version, I found the Modern Library edition acceptable, but nothing spectacular. This work has a multitude of editions, and I would recommend actually holding them in your hand before making a decision on which best suits your needs....more info

  • Cowley's Introduction
    Please note that I am reviewing the Penguin Classics printing of The First (1855) Edition.

    I trust that I need say nothing about Leaves of Grass itself. It is, alongside the poems of Hart Crane, Rimbaud, Lautreamont, Blake, Lawrence, Emily Dickinson and St John Perse, a totally singular experience. I have never read anything like "Song Of Myself" and "The Sleepers", and I am certain that you will love them just as much.

    I do, however, have certain reservations about Malcolm Cowley's introduction. It is well-intentioned enough, but I would like to issue a few words of warning, as it is certainly a very confused affair, one that will no doubt perplex many Whitman neophytes. For Cowley, the task of Whitman interpretation couldn't be simpler, one need only look towards Indian Vedic philosophy and Buddhist scripture for an all-purpose key. While this certainly seems attractive and convenient- a lazy expedient for phlegmatic types- Cowley himself realizes that it is totally incongruous with certain aspects of Whitman:
    "Most of Whitman's doctrines, though by no means all of them, belong to the mainstream of Indian philosophy. In some respects he went against the stream. Unlike most of the Indian sages, for example, he was not a thoroughgoing idealist. He did not believe that the whole world of the senses, of desires, of birth and death, was only maya, illusion, nor did he hold that it was a sort of purgatory; instead he praised the world as real and joyful. He did not despise the body, but proclaimed that it was as miraculous as the soul."

    Having meandered into a cul-de-sac, Cowley's attempt at escape is characteristically sloppy:
    "...it must be remembered that Indian philosophy or theology is not such a unified structure as it appears to us from a distance. Whitman might have found Indian sages or gurus and even whole sects that agreed with one or another of his heterodoxies (perhaps excepting his belief in material progress). One is tempted to say that instead of being a Christian heretic, he was an Indian rebel and sectarian. Sometimes he seems to be a Mahayana Buddhist..."

    Pedants are like spiders- they love cocooning themselves in their own contradictions. All of the difficulties that Cowley encounters here stem from his insufferable compulsion to categorise, and hence domesticate, Whitman. I take issue with this preposterous statement:
    "One is tempted to say..."
    No, Mr Cowley, YOU are tempted to make these conclusions, any sober reader is willing to meet Whitman on his own terms, to delight in his incomparable vigor. Further on, we find the following:
    "Since the Indian mystical philosophies are elaborate structures, based on conceptions that have been shaped and defined by centuries of discussion, they help to explain Whitman's ideas at points in the first edition whre he seems at first glance to be vague or self-contradictory. There is, for example, his UNUSUAL combination of realism- sometimes brutal realism- and serene optimism."

    Unusual, perhaps, if you insist on translating the poem into Vedic terms. It is a little depressing that scholars are so blind to the revelatory miracles of Leaves Of Grass. Here was a poet attempting to forge new forms of expression commensurate to his time, a capacious, all-enveloping style that would sing the songs of democracy. To thank him for his troubles, scholars do the only thing they are capable of, dragging Whitman into the malodorous mire of comparison. This line is redolent of Plato, this one reeks of Vimalakirti, this shadowy section can be illuminated with the torch of the Gita, all of it is regurgitated thought, relics coated in new varnish.

    What makes matters worse is Cowley's admission that Whitman had read none of the cited works in 1852. Yet, the empirical evidence admits no contestation- the symptoms of Whitman's mystical paroxysm are largely identical with prior examples. "Leaves Of Grass", we are told, is another manifestation of the 'perennial philosophy'- for all of its ornate embellishments and flourishes, it is, in fact, not very revolutionary at all. Once you master the rudiments of said philosophy, the swelling surge of Whitman's writing is easily navigable. Here we see Cowley defeated by his own epistemological suppositions. Cowley's method, after all, is that of a good Platonist. Poetry, for him, marks a poet's gradual emergence from anamnesia, a rapturous remembrance of eternal truths.

    In actuality, the introduction is not really about "Leaves Of Grass" at all. It is about the scholar's will to power, his inexorable urge to subordinate every literary text to precedent. In reducing "Song Of Myself" to yet another incarnation of Hindu absorption, Cowley does a severe injustice to a great American poem. He would have us believe that "Song Of Myself" is little better than a journal entry in verse, a haphazard approximation of a subjective mystical experience that has been repeated throughout history. To further substantiate his claim, Cowley compares a stanza in "Leaves Of Grass" to a Vedic text, noting their thematic and stylistic similarities. Does this not consolidate Whitman's unflinching faith in metempsychosis? In "Song Of Myself", Whitman effects the transmigration of souls, channelling the voice of the Vedas. The complacence and self-contentment of Cowley is, for this reader at least, truly vulgar.

    I am not disputing the notion that Whitman has a consistent doctrine beneath all of his creative output, but the system must be sought WITHIN his texts and NOT without. This is the thought that courses throughout all of Whitman's writing, that of pure immanence. To those approaching Whitman for the first time, I hope you have the good sense to treat Cowley's introduction with the bemusement that it deserves....more info
  • Good
    How come everyone constantly praises Shakespeare, Keats, Whitman, etc.? No one ever mentions any Eastern poets, i.e. Basho. I get more from 3 of his lines than pages of other poet's works. Don't get me wrong - I take nothing away from Whitman & this is excellent poetry....more info
  • Not the 1855
    At least as available for the Kindle, this is not the 1855 edition. It seems to be the final edition, which is of course great, but not what I intended to get based on the product description posted. Also, the foreward and afterward mentioned in the description are missing. I don't expect the moon for a low price, but I do expect to get what I pay for....more info
  • The Greatest American Poet's Masterpiece.
    Giving Walt Whitman only five stars out of five does him an injustice. Walt Whitman is perhaps the finest American poet ever as well as the most quintessentially American poet. His poetry never dates itself. It is as contemporary as if he just wrote it last week. Walt Whitman's poems overflow with life and energy, pulsate with excitement, and contain deep though simply-told truths that rival those of any wise man in history. Much maligned during life and after for the eroticism of his writing, he never let his inhibitions hold back his writing and thus it sparkles with honesty. Walt Whitman was also a great patriot, who loved America in a way modern Americans would do well to emulate. He sought it out on its own terms and recorded what he saw in his poetry. His war poems, written during the American Civil War, are some of the best war poems existing in literature. Whitman knew his subject, having spent much time caring for the wounded soldiers in the hospitals and visiting battlefields. His poems create vivid pictures, richly textured, as real as you read them as if you were seeing the scene yourself. And the dialog he carries on with the reader makes the reader feel that Whitman, if he were still alive, would like nothing more than to sit down and discuss life. He is one of the few poets who manages to establish a rapport with his reader, to anticipate his reader's reactions and talk to each one through the poem. Walt Whitman should be read by any and every literate American. 'Leaves of Grass' will change anyone who dares to read it....more info
  • Poetry for the soul
    If you want a beautiful 're-set' to your hectic life, this is a must. It settles, and soothes; having a beauty all it's own. And, yes dear, bikers can read....more info
  • Love, Bubba
    Well, buy this book and see why I gave a copy of it to Monica. Huh, huh!. Well, she stabbed me in the back in the end, but we'll always have Whitman......Love,

    Bubba...more info