85 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2007
It's difficult to think of something appropriate to say about a man who spent his life trying to express the panorama of humanity through the lense of his own heart. From a drop of blood to the grandeur of a shipyard or a continent, he takes all readers on a journey wild with raving, raging, sorrow, longing, humbleness and pride. At once he is totally modern and yet rife with history.
For readers new to poetry, Walt Whitman is wonderfully accessible. One can pick up Leaves of Grass and virtually start and stop anywhere and pick up something wonderful every time.
Not to be missed.
69 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2005
The 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass was the first and the best.
When I was young I bought the big deathbed edition, not knowing about the 1855 one. I became a Whitman disciple. Either version is a good place to start, but the 1855 is the best version of the early poems and a fine introduction to W.W.
The 1855 version was ignored for quite a long time in Whitman studies, but started recieving critical attention after Malcolm Cowley worked to revive it in the 1950's. It was his version that used to be available, until recently, as a Penguin Classic.
So whats the difference between 1855 and the Deathbed one?
Throughout his lifetime, Whitman not only expanded LOG, his only book, with gobs of inferior-- and sometimes truly awful-- poems (especially when he was older) but he also revised many of his early poems for later editions-- revising them almost always for the worse.
The 1855 edition is realtively short and reflects the diminutive, obscure quality of the original. The poems are full of Whitman's original fire before he tinkered with them.
Bloom, the author of the introduction, is in the estimation of many America's best living literary critic. He profoundly knows and adores Walt Whitman.
If you have the slightest interest in reading American Poetry,drop whatever you are reading (unless it is perhaps Dickinson or Emerson) and get this book. It's still America's best. Nothing since has been (and nothing will ever be) better. The only American poets after Whitman who mattered were deep readers of LOG: Hart Crane, Wallace Stevens, TS Eliot, John Ashbury. (A Ginsberg, C. Sandberg, and O. Paz resemble him superficially but they are are wonks.)
If you are interested later in getting all of Whitman's poems, skip all the in-between editions and get the 'Deathbed' Version, which has many good and important poems like 'When Lilacs Last in The Dooryard Bloomed' and 'As I Ebbed with the Ocean of Life'-- as well as many bad ones, to go with your 1855.
The Deathbed Version (Whitman approved it as the final Version of his one book as he lay dying) is probably close to ten times as long as the 1855 edition.
But Whitman got it right in 1855.
147 of 164 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2001
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.
239 of 278 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2006
Although the poems are beautiful... and I certainly don't mean to bash Whitman with this 2-star rating... it's the wrong book. NOT AS ADVERTISED. This was supposed to be the original 1855 edition. That's what I expected, and therefore (in my mind) what I was paying for. The original 1855 edition, according to modern literary analysis, was the "strongest/purest" version. It was the true starting point of Whitman's own (and consequently America's) poetic awakening. Consisting of just 12 "perfect" poems, it was THAT edition which Emerson praised so highly.
Whitman never put out another book... just revision after revision, addition after addition, and edition after edition of Leaves Of Grass... until you wind up with "the deathbed edition" which is a severely bloated and different work from the original.
I was very much looking forward to a slender volume of the original edition. Which is what the item description says this is. It's not. Be forewarned... it's the Deathbed Edition of 1892... nearly 500 pages. And frankly, there are MUCH better versions of the deathbed edition. Sturdier versions with nicer pages exist (this is a pretty weak paperback, printed on pulp pages), with better footnotes and more authoritive introductions. Shop around.
To sum up... the 2 star rating is because lying about which edition this is, is a terrible way to sell the book. Whitman was fantastic and the poetry contained in the book itself is first rate. It just would have been nice to get what I paid for. The "true" editon, written by a YOUNG Whitman at the height of his powers...
104 of 120 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2000
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.
56 of 63 people found the following review helpful
The original edition of 'Leaves of Grass' published in 1855 contained twelve poems only. The subsequent editions beginning in 1856 were to greatly expand the work. Thus I would recommed that anyone who wishes to know the true range of Whitman's work find another selection of his work of which there is a larger share of his great work.
Whitman is the poet who Emerson prophesied, the American visionary poet who sang of the complex greatness of the society, and connected his own soul with its expansive facts of life.
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2001
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.
331 of 403 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2012
Word to the not so wise: don't accept books with personal inscriptions written on the flyleaf. This also makes for poor bathroom reading.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 1999
The best way to appreciate Whitman is to read him aloud as you walk down a street or the country side.You'd feel electricity stirring within you and all else would change too.Even the inanimate would seeth with life and vitality amidst the gentle choreography of nature.Thats what happens to me when I read "The Song Of the Open Road".It's amazing that Whitman could capture the deep inherent things we feel inside,things that stir us inside out and yet find it difficult to express.A timeless clasic that will stir people from generation to generation.Nothing like it.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2000
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.