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The Complete Poems (Penguin Classics) Paperback – March 29, 2005
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About the Author
Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was born on Long Island and educated in Brooklyn, New York. He served as a printer's devil, journeyman compositor, itinerant schoolteacher, editor, and unofficial nurse to Northern and Southern soldiers.
Francis Murphy is a professor emeritus of English at Smith College.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
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Although I tend to favor English Verse, this American poet grabs me. His verse is precise, winding, and a delight to read. And Penguin's paperback of his complete poems is one of my favorite editions of his poetry.
I highly recommend this thorough and panoramic collection. If you love poetry, you'll love this collection.
kyle foley, author of Lorelei Pursued and Wrestles with God
His greatest poem is, in my opinion, "Song of Myself." This is far from a controversial opinion, and for good reason; the eighty-odd page long poem is an astounding epic--albeit, an unusual one, but a monumental achievement of literature. It is Whitman as Everyman, Whitman as you, as me, as all other mortals from China to Peru. I quote his beautiful closing stanzas:
"I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I
If you want me again look for me under your bootsoles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop some where waiting for you"
Such beauty in verse, especially free verse, is scarcely found, and, when found, must be cherished. There is a reason almost all poets after him--and not just poets in the English language, either (Borges, for example, aspired to be the "Whitman of Argentina")--have been influenced by him more so than any other poet besides perhaps Shakespeare and Milton.
Nor is "Song of Myself" his only great poem, though it surely be his greatest. His elegy for Abraham Lincoln, "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" is monumental (the great critic Harold Bloom declares it Whitman's finest poem, and thus the greatest of all American poems--I dissent, but uphold its marvel nonetheless), as is almost all of his wonderful corpus of poetry. Whitman is remarkable; he is inescapable; he is beautiful. Read him, and thou shalt be infinitely rewarded.