When Walt Whitman self-published Leaves of Grass in 1855 it was a slim volume of twelve poems and he was a journalist and poet from Long Island, little-known but full of ambition and poetic fire. To give a new voice to the new nation shaken by civil war, he spent his entire life revising and adding to the work, but his initial act of bravado in answering Ralph Waldo Emerson's call for a national poet has made Whitman the quintessential American writer. This rich cross-section of his work includes poems from throughout Whitman's lifetime as published on his deathbed edition of 1891, short stories, his prefaces to the many editions of Leaves of Grass, and a variety of prose selections, including Democratic Vistas, Specimen Days, and Slang in America.
Gr 5-9--An outstanding introduction to Whitman's life and work. This collection of 26 poems and excerpts from longer poems is prefaced by a biographical sketch and a description of the time period. Students will be impressed by the poet's daring departure from traditional metered and rhyming poetry. Levin guides readers into understanding the importance of Whitman's oeuvre. He introduces each selection with pertinent information about its relevance to a larger work, its relationship to Whitman's beliefs, or the symbolism within it. Words that students might find difficult are defined at the bottom of the page. Beginning with the patriotic "I Hear America Singing," the collection includes excerpts from "Song of Myself," "O Captain! My Captain!," poems from Leaves of Grass, and a variety of other selections that are thought-provoking, descriptive, and full of emotion. Burke's pastel drawings add to the feelings Levin describes, and to the emotional impact of each poem. Several illustrations are historical in nature; others reflect ordinary lives and activities of the times. Still others show Whitman's sense of the miracles and mysticism of life. This superb volume can be used to teach literature or to show a variety of poetic devices and style. Students who have been taught to appreciate poetry will enjoy it on their own.--Betty Teague, Blythe Academy of Languages, Greenville, SC