Leaves of Grass (Barnes & Noble Classics Series): First and

Leaves of Grass (Barnes & Noble Classics Series): First and "Death-Bed" Editions

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593080839
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 01/01/2005
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 960
Sales rank: 49,466
Product dimensions: 7.96(w) x 5.30(h) x 2.05(d)

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From Karen Karbiener’s Introduction to Leaves of Grass: First and "Death-Bed" Editions

"Whitman, the one pioneer. And only Whitman," wrote D. H. Lawrence in 1923. "No English pioneers, no French. No European pioneer-poets. In Europe the would-be pioneers are mere innovators. The same in America. Ahead of Whitman, nothing" (Woodress, ed., Critical Essays on Walt Whitman, p. 211). The sentiments were echoed by the likes of F. O. Matthiessen, William Carlos Williams, and Allen Ginsberg. Langston Hughes named Whitman the "greatest of American poets"; Henry Miller described him as "the bard of the future" (quoted in Perlman et al., eds., Walt Whitman: The Measure of His Song, pp. 185, 205). Even his more cynical readers recognized Whitman’s position of near-mythical status and supreme influence in American letters. "His crudity is an exceeding great stench but it is America," Ezra Pound admitted in a 1909 article; he continued: "To be frank, Whitman is to my fatherland what Dante is to Italy" (Perlman, pp. 112–113). "We continue to live in a Whitmanesque age," said Pablo Neruda in a speech to PEN in 1972. "Walt Whitman was the protagonist of a truly geographical personality: The first man in history to speak with a truly continental American voice, to bear a truly American name" (Perlman, p. 232). Alicia Ostriker, in a 1992 essay, claimed that "if women poets in America have written more boldly and experimentally in the last thirty years than our British equivalents, we have Whitman to thank" (Perlman, p. 463).

How did a former typesetter and penny-daily editor come to write the poems that would define and shape American literature and culture?

Whitman’s metamorphosis in the decade before the first publication of Leaves of Grass in 1855 remains an intriguing mystery. Biographers concede that details about Whitman’s life and literary activities from the late 1840s to the early 1850s are extremely hard to come by. "Little is known of Whitman’s activities in these years," writes Joann Krieg in the 1851–1854 section of her Whitman Chronology (most other years have month-to-month commentaries). Whitman was fired from his job at the New Orleans Daily Cresent in the summer of 1848, then resigned from his editorship of the Brooklyn Freeman in 1849. Though he continued to write for several newspapers during the next five years, his work as a freelancer was irregular and his whereabouts difficult to follow. He seems also to have tried his hand at several other jobs, including house building and selling stationery. One wonders if Walt’s break from the daily work routine had something to do with his poetic awakening. Keeping to a regulated schedule in the newspaper offices had been a struggle for him, and he had been fired several times for laziness or "sloth." Charting his own days and ways—in particular, working as a self-employed carpenter, as had his idiosyncratic father—may well have enabled him to think "outside the box" and toward the organic, freeform qualities of Leaves.

Purposefully dropping out of workaday life and common sight suggests that Whitman may have intended to obscure the details of his pre-Leaves years, and there is further evidence to support the idea that Whitman consciously created a "myth of origins." In his biography of Whitman, Justin Kaplan quotes the poet on the mysterious "perturbations" of Leaves of Grass: It had been written under "great pressure, pressure from within," and he had "felt that he must do it" (p. 185). To obscure the roots of Leaves and build the case for his original thinking, Whitman destroyed significant amounts of manuscripts and letters upon at least two occasions; as Grier notes in his introduction to Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts, "one is continually struck by [the] omissions and reticences" of the remaining material (vol. 1, p. 8). Indeed, some of the notes surviving his "clean-ups" were reminders to himself to "not name any names"—and thus to remain silent concerning any possible readings or influences. "Make no quotations, and no reference to any other writers.—Lumber the writing with nothing," Whitman wrote to himself in the late 1840s. It was a command he would repeat to himself several times in the years preceding the publication of Leaves.

Whitman’s friends and critics also did their share to create a legend of the writer and his explosive first book. In the first biographical study of Whitman, John Burroughs claimed that certain individuals throughout history "mark and make new eras, plant the standard again ahead, and in one man personify vast races or sweeping revolutions. I consider Walt Whitman such an individual" (Burroughs, "Preface" to Notes on Walt Whitman as Poet and Person). Others insisted that Leaves of Grass was the product of the "cosmic consciousness" Whitman had acquired around 1850 (Bucke, Walt Whitman, p. 178) or a spiritual "illumination" of the highest order (Binns, A Life of Walt Whitman, p. 69–70).

What sort of experience could inspire such a personal revelation? For a man just awakening to the inhumanity of slavery and the hidden agendas of the Free Soil stance, witnessing a slave auction might do it. This was but one of the life-altering events that occurred during Whitman’s three-month sojourn in New Orleans in 1848. Another, substantiated by his poetry rather than Whitman’s own word, was an alleged homosexual affair. Several poems in the sexually charged "Calamus" and "Children of Adam" clusters of 1860 are suggestive of an intense and liberating romance in New Orleans. The manuscript for "Once I Passed Through a Populous City" has the lines "man who wandered with me, there, for love of me, / Day by day, and night by night, we were together." "Man" was changed to "woman" in the final draft of the poem; see Whitman’s Manuscripts: Leaves of Grass (1860), edited by Fredson Bowers, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955, p. 64. In "I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing," the poet describes breaking off a twig of a particularly stately and solitary tree: "Yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of manly love." The emotional release of "coming out" might well explain the spectacular openness and provocative energy of Leaves of Grass; additionally, Whitman’s identification of his "outsider status" could have helped spark his empathy for women, Native Americans, and other marginalized groups that are celebrated in the 1855 poems.

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Leaves of Grass: First and "Death-Bed" Editions 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 217 reviews.
TeenHorror More than 1 year ago
This was one of the first books I downloaded for the Nook and was pretty disappointed to see that the formatting is really messed up. It looks better in small type size, but on medium it will make incorrect line breaks, which is often disastrous to the poetry. On any size type it will never make indentions to show that a line is continued. I haven't downloaded any other poetry on nook so I'm not sure if this is a widespread issue or an isolated one.
John-Gregory-67 More than 1 year ago
As others say here I was very disappointed that my first e book experience had to be this one. The formating is all wrong. The line breaks are wrong and there are no hanging indentations which Whitman used a lot of. I would urge anyone to read Leaves of Grass, but not this copy. B and N should fix this. Whitman deserves better.
Jordan_Hal More than 1 year ago
This is an awesome collection to have in one's own library. Everyone should own Whitman works, along with Ohio Blue Tips by Jeanne E. Clark, The Photos In The Closet by Daniel E. Lopez, and works by Alison Townsend.
edd4243 More than 1 year ago
This had basically all of his works. He is a great writer.
Wampa More than 1 year ago
My favorite work of poetry. Captures everything I feel about the world. I love reading this outdoors!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey guys. Can you please find some other way to roleplay with each other? I'm not dissing roleplaying at all! I'm a teen just like you who enjoys a good rpg every once in a while. What I DON'T enjoy is a bunch of you guys taking over a space like this that is meant for something else, like reviewing a book. The reviw button is meant for giving your helpful oppinion on a book, not messaging back and forth. Try texting each other or using a site like Facebook, or somewhere else that has messaging capabilities. The other readers would really appreciate it! Thanks! -Ashlee
Daniel Greene More than 1 year ago
This really is painful to read on the NOOKcolor since the line wrapping was never reformatted to reflow as font size is adjusted. The reviewer before me warned of this problem but I wasnt able to see the poems because the whole sample consisted of foreword. Dumb question, but can I get my $$ back?
Carey53 More than 1 year ago
Karen Karbiener was my professor at Columbia and taught the American Literature class, Walt Whitman. Karen was by far the best professor I had and will never forget this class and this book! The book is profoundly educational and tremendously stimulating!
AnakinFanatic More than 1 year ago
Walt Whitman speaks of things that would not normally be placed in poems. He is open about the world around him and himself. In a sense, he is a transcendentalist who does not fear what the public thinks about him. His poems are witty, strange, and sometimes provoking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
From the opening lines and throughout, Whitman expresses with great clarity the experience of inner peace that arises when the human being is completely connected to the inner and outer worlds. This text includes both versions of the famous Leaves of Grass, as well as, a multitude of other poems. It is a perfect format for long intense study or the need to read a short inspirational piece of poetry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book ever, period. Wholesome, pure, warming, honest, true.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Maybe it is just that I am a hopeless American history book and that a book of poems about the Civil War is more than my feeble mind can resist, but this collection of Walt Whitman's poetry is simply, for lack of a better word, brilliant. In any given poem in the volume, there is some truth, and I do not think we realize how relevant these poems are to life today. The themes in Whitman's poetry are just as alive now as they were during his time. Really, there is no reason why they should not be. Centuries may come and go with the seasons, but America is really the same. Time cannot (or is it has not?) tarnished yet that for which this country exists, and because of that, everything Whitman said in terms of his America applies to ours as well. My favorite poems include 'O Captain! My Captain!', 'Long, too Long, America', and 'To Thee, Old Cause.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
Karbiener brings us a perfect match - Whitman's best poetry in one clear volume. As a Whitman expert, she has compiled what readers need and long for: Whitman's essence. The raw, ascerbic embrace of Whitman's inauguration into the world of literature as seen in 1855 will certainly wake anyone from a holiday slumber.
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