Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Poetry
Leaves of Grass by Walk Whitman

By Grace O’Reilly

This controversial poetry book, was first published way back in 1855.  Back then it was a very different time altogether and in all aspects of life, for the better and for the worst.

This version that I have before me, is copyright 1993 by Random House, Inc.  the jacket cover of the book is engraved frontispiece by Samuel Hollyer for the original publication in 1855.

Well known  people such as Emily Dickenson and Abraham Lincoln both read Whitman’s Leave of Grass, with opposing opinions on his works.  Dickenson was disgusted with this book, citing it to be “disgraceful”, while the former American president Lincoln, read the book with approval.

Lots of film lovers will know Whitman’s poem, O Captain! My Captain! from the end of the film Dead Poet’s Society, starring the now deceased but still much-loved actor Robin Williams.  Prior to the film it was a book with the same title name, written by Nancy H. Kleinbaum.  His other renowned poem may perhaps be I Sing the Body Electric.

A good few of his poems explore death and bodies in depth.  Politics, and religion are ingrained within these pages.

The blurb at the back of this book reads:

“Whitman’s best poems have that permanent quality of being freshly painted, of not being dulled by the varnish of the years.  Reading them a century after their publication, one feels the same shock and wonder and delight that Emerson felt when opening his presentation copy of the first edition.  They carry us into a new world that Whitman discovered as if this very morning….After reading all of Leaves of Grass as Whitman wished it to be preserved and after being won over by what I think is the best of it…I am willing to join the consensus that regards him as our most rewarding poet. – Malcolm Cowley”

Although this book may not be everybody’s cup of tea, it is most certainly an intriguing read.  Definitely not a light read!

“O Captain! My Captain!

© Walt Whitman

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up – for you the flag is flung – for you the bugle trills,

For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths – for you the shores a-crowding,…

Leaves of Grass by Walk Whitman(c) Grace O’Reilly

Order your copy online here.

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