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."
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust theseries to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-datetranslations by award-winning translators.
About the Author
Walt Whitman was an American poet and writer born in New York in 1819. Despite his family s financial troubles, Whitman attended school and, after graduating at age eleven, worked in a lawyer s office before becoming a printer s apprentice. Before he had even turned sixteen Whitman began anonymously publishing his poetry at the Long Island Star, where he worked. After leaving the Star, Whitman moved through several jobs including teaching, publishing and typesetting. Eventually, though, Whitman determined to make his living writing poetry, and paid for the first publication of Leaves of Grass himself when he was thirty-seven. At the time of its publication, Leaves of Grass was met with controversy and was criticized for its overtly sexual themes, however, but it has since come to be one of the most important works in early American literature and a product of the transcendentalist movement. Whitman died in 1892 at the age of seventy-two.
Michael Warner is professor of English at Rulgers University. His most recent works include American Sermons: The Pilgrims to Martin Luther King, and his essays and journalism have appeared in the Village Voice, the Nation, and other magazines.