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Song of Myself by Walt Whitman
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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2002
As with so much of Stephen Mitchell's work, the most important thing is to know what it is before you buy it. It may be exactly what you want, or it may be just the opposite; there's usually not much room in between.
In the present case, Mitchell has done something that some readers might consider pretty hubristic and perhaps even sacrilegious: he has produced an edited version of Walt Whitman's great "Song of Myself" that corresponds to no published version whatsoever.
How? Well, he started with the original (1855) edition of the poem, and then considered _every single change_ Whitman ever made in the poem clear up to his death in 1892. If Mitchell thought the change improved the poem, he left it in; if not, not. The result, for obvious reasons, is a "Song of Myself" that Whitman himself never actually wrote.
That's _not_ necessarily a bad thing. I respect Mitchell's taste and judgment, and I happen to agree with him that some of Whitman's later alterations made the poem worse. In fact I think Mitchell's edition is extremely fine.
But some readers may be looking for a version of "Song of Myself" that reflects Whitman's taste and judgment rather than Mitchell's. So let the buyer be aware.
At any rate I share Mitchell's high estimation of this poem and I'm happy that he's published his edition of it. Whitman belongs with Emerson and Thoreau on a shortlist of great American sages; this single poem is a large part of the reason why.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 25, 2005
How can Stephen Mitchell even think of such an abberation - editing Walt Whitman's greatest poem? Sure, there are several versions of the Song of Myself, but if you want to read Whitman, read the original. The first version is the most powerful, and Whitman toned it down over the years, turning it into "poetry" rather than his initial burst of enthusiasm. There are several editions of the poem that will let you get the true texts: for example, the Library of America's complete Whitman has both the first version of Leaves of Grass and the "deathbed" version, which Whitman revised shortly before his death. There are other versions throughout Whitman's career, as he added poems to the Leaves, and tinkered with existing poems. But this book is a sham. Avoid it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 4, 2007
I always have this book in my travel bag. Hiking the John Muir trail - perfect. A cafe in Budapest - perfect. The Shinkansen train in Japan - perfect. A hammock in Costa Rica - perfect. It's tiny, beautiful, and invigorating - it reminds me of why I/we live. It's learned and raw and revealing and divine; it articulates the sorrow and glory of being human.

In my opinion, like the Bible, it is a book everyone should read once.

Mitchell did take some liberties by collating different versions of Whitman's work, but keep in mind that Walt re-wrote this poem time and time again. I have read probably a dozen versions of this peom and this is no less valuable than any of the others. Mitchell has fine taste and all the words are Walt's, and Mitchell adequately explains his reasoning in the preface. So, in contrast to what some of the other reviewers have written: If you're going to read this poem only once, Mitchell has presented a great version here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2014
I like the cover of this book, and the idea of this poem published by itself, but a huge red flag went up for me when I saw a typo on the back cover. "Song of Myself by Walt Whitman is one the must read Walt Whitman poems." There is no copyright info or publisher info within the book. I'm now wondering if there will be other mistakes within the text. If I'd known this, I would have chosen to buy another version. The book would be better with some editing and publishing information.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2014
It is not news that Walt Whitman has something to say to those you read poetry for fun or to learn more about poetry. This book is being used by a class on-line that is free from Univ of Pennsylvania www.coursera.org. It is a study of Modern and Contemporary American Poetry from 1850's to 1950's. Whitman was one of the primary poets used to introduce us to Modern Poetry starting to unfold in the USA.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2011
Excellent reading. Very well written and easy to stay involved. I recommend this to everyone who wants to improve their vocabulary or just learn about the depth of detail that exist to those who look for it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2005
Walt Whitman may have recorded one short poem on an Edison cylinder before his death in 1892. This recording presents Orson Welles reciting significant passages from the long poem "Song of Myself." In an earlier version, the poem announced Whitman's emergence as a poet--offering, in the body of the poem, the first announcement of the name of the maker of this new, fertile book.

The performance is an interesting auxilliary to a reading of the poem. Sections 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 14, 15, 21, 24, 26, 27, 28, 31, (33), 46, 48, 51, and 52 are presented. Those who find Welles' voice pleasing will enjoy the performance for certain. It raises some of the familiar questions of melodrama etc. common when actors record poetry. Still, without a significant "authorial" performance to prefer, this is quite wonderful to hear.

Like the poetry of many, Whitman's is certainly composed for reading aloud and auditing. As we have largely lost this tradition (outside of the poetry slam), Orson Welles provides a useful instance of what it means to "sound" the text.
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on February 12, 2014
The book came quickly and in EXCELLENT condition, but the book itself was not very pliant and made reading comfortably difficult. Reading is not about comfort though, it is a commitment to something greater than that, so overall, very nice.
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on June 24, 2014
Perfect book to take on a long camping trip, miles away from civilization and the noise of the city, I cannot think of abetter way to flush the soul.
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on April 2, 2013
This book is very light and and yet the whole poem is in there. Schools usually just ask for that one poem. So its a great price and size. Perfect!
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