Why does Whitman's poetry and prose grip and excite one group of contemporary readers while repelling some others? Why are his writings recited, sung, and even danced by one group but virtually kept under cover by another? What is the essential energetic charge in his work that reaches into the heart, that fascinates and even hypnotizes, while being considered merely facile or flamboyant by other readers?
This book seeks to answer these questions. It begins with a thorough biography before considering Whitman's work: the poetry as well as the prose. Since his writings closely reflect experiences as office boy, schoolteacher, typesetter, journalist, editor, hospital nurse, and clerk in the office of attorney general of the United States, they virtually span and encapsulate the American experience. Leaves of Grass, in its various editions, is probably the most influential body of poetic writing published by an American. Favorites such as "Song of Myself," "I Sing the Body Electric," "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking," "Song of the Open Road," and "O Captain! My Captain!" are all discussed. In the process, Whitman's place in world literature is acknowledged.
Walt Whitman was unique in his time and remains unique today. A poet who made body and soul one, he was a uniter of the disparate - the poet of city and country, the poet of time and space, the poet of America and the world.
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American artist beautiful become body breath broad-axe Brooklyn Calamus Calamus poems child considered cosmic creative death deeply democracy depicted divine Doyle earth earthly edition of Leaves Edward Wagenknecht Emerson emotional eternal evil existence experience eyes father fear feelings felt ferry forever friends Harry Stafford hospital human ical identified images individual inner Karl Shapiro land landscape Leaves of Grass life's living Long Island look Marietta Alboni mood mother mystical narrator nature nature's never Nevertheless Onomatopoeias Open Road pain Passage to India passion Peter Doyle phallic philosopher phrenologists physical pleasure poems poet poet's poetic poetry psyche psychological reader rhythms Robert Emmet Salut au Monde sense sequences sexual singing society soldiers Song soul Specimen Days spheres spiritual subliminal symbols thereby Thoreau thought tion tones verbal vision vocal voice Walt Whitman Whit Whitman believed Whitman wrote women word wounded writings yearning young