on January 28, 2006
I picked up this book in the Spring of 1990 while browsing in a bookstore. I'm no student of poetry, in fact I only purchased it because I randomly flipped it open and was enamored with the passage I found. I learned that the passage is from "Song of Myself" and have read both that epic poem and the entire collection through dozens of times.
I didn't know exactly what I had purchased that day. But over time find that turning to Whitman's poetry and prose has been a source of comfort. I find myself in his writings, and find that his messages apply clearly in the present day. This volume is a pretty hefty way to start with Whitman--you get everything from the start. If you choose to buy it, I suggest randomly exploring it--stopping here and there to read a poem. I spent weeks exploring that way, only later did I read everything from start to finish. The simplicity of the writing and the clarity of meaning is remarkable.
The Library of America edition is--in itself--beautiful. Well bound, fine paper, still in excellent condition after 15 years of use. When reading it, it is impossible not to appreciate the caliber of it's manufacture: the choice of paper, inks, typefaces, binding, etc. contribute to pleasurable experience. I have a small number of other Library of America volumes, and each is exquisitely assembled and a joy to read. They are not inexpensive, but I'd argue that they are most definitely worth every penny.
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.
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.
on June 4, 2004
Leaving aside, for the moment, a review of Whitman's writing itself, let me say that this edition (by the Library of America series) is the best one out there. I've been hard pressed to find works of Whitman that aren't included in this volume: it has both the 1855 and 1892 editions of Leaves of Grass, complete, and virtually all of his prose. It even includes several important pieces that Whitman didn't add to the final edition of his works during his lifetime.
Add to that the fact that these books are well made and wear well with time, and it's definitely worth the slightly higher price (especially with the amazon discount!).
Having said that - Whitman's poetry is of course wonderful, and his prose is just as great. A lot of people know about Leaves of Grass...how many, I wonder, have taken the time to read _Specimen Days_ and find out just how great of a writer Whitman really is? This volume is heartily reccomended to give you a great all-around picture of Whitman and his work. If you're coming to Whitman for the first time, a small paperback would probably be the better bet, but if you've gotten that far and want more, this is the only book you'll need.
on October 15, 2004
trinity. My debt and appreciation has never diminished to this threesome. In fact, only increases.
The reason that I came across the Library of America series is that after many years of use, my copy of 'Leaves of Grass' was giving way to time. I was looking for a quality hardcover that I would not only use over and over again, but one that looked elegant on my book shelf.
I am completely happy with both the quality of the book: binding, cover, print, paper and compactness as well as the contents. There are volumes of Whitman's written words available, and are worth the owning, but this collection captures his essence, and should go a long way in keeping the lover of 'Leaves of Grass' happy and satisfied.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.