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American life in leaves of grass by walt whitman

Today marks not only the anniversary of America's independence but also american life in leaves of grass by walt whitman major literary event in the life of the nation, the publication of Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass. The first edition, published by Whitman himself, contained 12 untitled poems. He was one of the first poets to extol the virtues of the human body in exquisite detail and to write in free verse.

Unfortunately for Whitman, no one appeared to notice. Sales at first were abysmal. With few exceptions, critics dismissed the work as rubbish. Whitman himself wrote glowingly of his collection and waged a campaign of self-promotion. This hour, an examination of Whitman's transformation from literary nobody to the Good Gray Poet and the lasting impact of "Leaves of Grass.

But first, Whitman's "Leaves of Grass. When did you first come across a copy of "Leaves of Grass"? Which pieces left an impression on you? Our number here in Washington, 800 989-8255.

And our e-mail address is totn npr. He joins us from a BBC studio in Paris. Thanks so much for joining us. Good to talk with you, Lynn. Why did "Leaves of Grass" create such a sea change in poetry when it was published? Well, I think--it didn't exactly create a sea change immediately but over the years it certainly has.

And I think the key is that for Whitman, the development of an absolutely new style, a style so radical, so open, so flowing, the free verse lines, the brash announcement of a strong self that would sing of itself, all of these things led to a remarkably strange and radical book that when reviewers, except for Whitman himself, first looked at it, reviewers would talk about it not even being a book of poems, being unable to really decipher what it was.

The form was so strange and radical. Many of the ideas were familiar from writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, who sent Whitman a letter early on and greeted him at the beginning of a great career and helped Whitman along. Whitman took that phrase from Emerson's letter without permission and emblazoned it on the second edition of "Leaves of Grass" in 1856.

  1. At the time Whitman was writing, a person of discriminating taste, a person who discriminated was seen positively.
  2. This is why Ralph Waldo Emerson, when recommending the book to Thomas Carlyle, said to Carlyle that he might find the volume to be nothing more than "an auctioneer's inventory of a warehouse" —6 May 1856 [Norton 2.
  3. Give us a call. And from there on I--the article that I was writing ment--on the publication for this local stamp club--came to find out that he actually was born in Camden, New Jersey, and this is the city that I grew up, you know, as a teen.
  4. Although the white American poet is inclusive and caring on the surface and presents himself as a modern-day Jesus, he refrains from sharing his room or bed with the slave as he does with others , suggesting an unequal relationship and an unwillingness to fully include the slave as an American.
  5. Let's go first to Billy in De Kalb, Illinois.

As you mentioned, he was a great self-promoter. Unfortunately, that's a bit of wishful thinking now. It didn't really get published on July 4th? That was an argument that was made by a critic who really wanted it to happen back in the 1930s and he made the argument on the basis of the dates that advertisements for "Leaves of Grass" that Whitman had placed in New York area newspapers appeared, but since then we've found earlier advertisements from as early as late June that were advertising the book already available in the bookstores.

So, unfortunately, we don't have a literary declaration of independence appearing on Independence Day, but it was close. Well, we're going to celebrate it today anyway. Yeah, it's a good time to celebrate it. You know, as his poetry suggests, Walt Whitman was not a shy, retiring person.

In fact, he had kind of a Messianic view of himself as a poet, didn't he?

  • He printed it in a very small print shop run by a guy named Andrew Rome in Brooklyn; first book that Rome had ever printed;
  • Join the conversation; the number's 800 989-TALK;
  • And he becomes convinced that the spirits of the dead inhabit machinery;
  • And one of the nice things about that incident is that the attorney general listed all of the things that;;;
  • It must be acknowledged that Whitman attempts on several occasions to include slaves in his America, yet he always fails to do so;
  • Well, thanks so much for joining us today, Mr.

Well, he did, and I think one of the things that happens when you pick up a copy of "Leaves of Grass" and begin reading it is that you either hear that voice as a tremendously self-involved, egocentric voice or you begin to hear it as I think Whitman intended it, which is the voice of what democracy is going to sound like.

I think what Whitman set out to do in "Leaves of Grass" was nothing less than to invent the democratic voice, invent a voice that would basically be a void of nondiscrimination. It's interesting to me that Whitman was the very first writer to use discrimination in the pejorative sense. At the time Whitman was writing, a person of discriminating taste, a person who discriminated was seen positively.

This would be a person who would be able to sort out the beautiful from the ugly. Whitman set out to invent a voice that did not discriminate because Whitman began to see--as I think most of us hear the word discrimination today in the United States--see discrimination as primarily a negative attribute; that is, every time we discriminate in favor of something, we discriminate against other things.

The Walt Whitman Archive

And he began to see democracy as--well, he compared it to photography, the new visual invention of his time, that is, a plate that was open to the impress of the world.

Anything that would appear, anything that the sun would shine on would be part of the fullness and the new beauty. And so that self that he sings is a huge, absorptive, vast self that is trying to get to the point that it can absorb and contain every aspect of America's vast diversity and eventually the world's diversity. So it is a brash, vast voice; but I think it's a voice that Whitman believed everyone in America, every democratic-thinking being in the world would eventually have to have, a voice that did not discriminate.

We are talking about Walt Whitman and his "Leaves of Grass. Have you been influenced by Walt Whitman and his poetry? When did you first encounter it?

Give us a call. It's 1 800 989-8255. And we're going to go to Lynn. She's in Old Mission, Michigan, I believe it is. Well, I'm a he. Well, I was just wondering what Abraham Lincoln's--I'm sorry. I was just wondering what Walt Whitman's relationship to Abraham Lincoln was.

  • Whitman, by the end of his life, realized that it was going to be a slow process but he already, by the end of his life, was seeing the signs that a lot of young, very passionate readers were beginning to spread the word, to keep the books in print, to see that the 20th century would have an opportunity to read Whitman;
  • Good to talk with you, Lynn;
  • He printed very few books during his career; it was mostly legal forms printing that he was doing;
  • And he printed "Leaves of Grass" himself, did he not?

Well, Abraham Lincoln, of course, was Whitman's hero president, the president who was struggling to preserve the Union.

And one of Whitman's greatest poems, "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," was a poem that--an elegy that he wrote upon Lincoln's death, probably his most familiar poem, a poem that by the end of his life Whitman said he regretted having ever written.

Whitman always talked about a kind of personal relationship that he had with Abraham Lincoln, but the relationship actually involved Whitman often standing in Washington, DC, where Whitman was living while American life in leaves of grass by walt whitman was president during the Civil War, and standing on the street because he knew the path that Lincoln followed. Often on hot summer nights he would actually sleep outside of town in a camp north of Washington, and Whitman knew the path, as most people did, that Lincoln would follow.

And Whitman would always stand out there and tip his hat as Lincoln went by and, according to Whitman, Lincoln would tip his hat back again. They--there's some evidence that Lincoln himself read "Leaves of Grass" early on. There's a book by Daniel Mark Epstein that came out recently that argues that Lincoln's rhetorical style--his great change of rhetorical style that led to things like the Gettysburg Address were actually derived from his having read and been inspired by "Leaves of Grass.

All right, thanks so much for your call-in. I apologize for assuming your gender. I'm sure you can understand why I did. OK, we're going to try and get a quick call in before we have to take a break.

I wanted to say that I was first introduced to Walt Whitman through a Chautauqua program where an actor actually became him. I think it was in "Leaves of Grass. Yeah, can you read an excerpt of it?

Imagined America: Walt Whitman’s Nationalism in the First Edition of Leaves of Grass

I understand you have an excerpt there to read. Reading I hear America singing the varied carols I hear. Those of mechanics each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong. I appre--is that your favorite Whitman poem? Oh, it's hard to pick a favorite.

I'd say it's one of them. Yeah, thanks so much for your call, Ryan. That's a great passage that Ryan just read and points out that quality that I was trying to describe in Whitman of here it's a non-discriminative music. It's music that takes in all sound, sound that otherwise would be dismissed as noise, and includes it in a song that he now calls America.

And, again, also reflects that great belief in democracy. You can hear it in that one--those few lines, which, of course, then became the theme of "Leaves of Grass. When we come back, Michael Cunningham, author of "The Hours," will be joining us to talk about his most recent book, which was inspired by guess what?

What's your story about "Leaves of Grass"? Yours, not the one involving Bill and Monica. We're taking your calls at 800 989-TALK and you can send us an e-mail.

  1. Holloway, Emory and Vernolian Schwarz. He resided in New York during the forties and fifties except for a brief stay in New Orleans in 1848 , writing articles about city politics and the cultural scene before leaving newspaper work in the mid-fifties to begin his experiments in poetry.
  2. I'm sure you can understand why I did. Maternal as well as paternal.
  3. New York UP, 1963—1964.
  4. These years of daily reportage Whitman always recalled fondly see, for example, "Starting Newspapers," Prose Works 1.
  5. That he knew that images in, you know, color and just, you know, anything, you know, that piques--gets the people's attention and curiosity was very important.

The address is totn npr. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington.

The First (1855) Edition

Neal Conan is on vacation. We're talking about "Leaves of Grass. A century and a half later what's your relationship to "Leaves of Grass"? Give us a call at 800 989-TALK, and our e-mail address is totn npr.

For excerpts of poems as they originally appeared in the first edition of american life in leaves of grass by walt whitman of Grass," you can go to our Web site at npr. Professor Folsom, I'm wondering if there is any verse in the first edition of "Leaves of Grass" that you think particularly captures Walt Whitman's spirit?

Well, it's always difficult to pull out a particular passage but the nice thing about Whitman is you can almost never go wrong. You can pick out any passage and it begins to unfold into all the other passages of "Leaves of Grass.

Here's a passage I'm fond of from the poem that he eventually entitled "Song of Myself. Regardless of others, ever regardful of others. Maternal as well as paternal. A child as well as a man stuffed with the stuff that is coarse and stuffed with the stuff that is fine.

One of the great nation, a nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the largest the same. A Southerner soon as a Northerner, a planter, nonchalant and hospitable, a Yankee bound my own way, ready for trade.

My joints the limberest joints on Earth and the sternest joints on Earth. A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in my deerskin leggings. A boatman over the lakes or bays or along coasts.