Archive for May 1st, 2015

May 1, 2015

Leaves of Grass

walt whitman

Leaves of Grass is a collection of poetry by Walt Whitman praising sensuality, the material world, nature, and the experience of the senses. The book was published at Whitman’s own expense in 1855, a period where poetry focused on the soul and organized religion, and was a failure at first. Whitman spent most of his professional life writing and rewriting the book, revising it multiple times until his death. This resulted in vastly different editions over four decades—the first a small book of twelve poems and the last a compilation of over 400.

The collection is notable for its discussion of delight in carnal pleasures during a time when such candid displays were considered immoral. Where much previous poetry, especially English, relied on symbolism, allegory, and meditation on the religious and spiritual, ‘Leaves of Grass’ (particularly the first edition) exalted the physical form and ephemera. Influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Transcendentalist movement, itself an offshoot of Romanticism, Whitman’s poetry praises nature and the individual’s role in it. However, much like Emerson, Whitman does not diminish the role of the mind or the spirit; rather, he elevates the human form and mind, deeming both worthy of poetic praise.

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