'I celebrate myself and sing myself . . .'
When Walt Whitman self-published Leaves of Grass in 1855 it was a slim volume of twelve poems, alarmingly unfamiliar in form, shockingly frank, unabashedly American, and aggressively democratic. At the time, Whitman was a journalist from Long Island, unknown but full of ambition; at his death in 1892 he was beginning to be recognized as one of the most distinctive poetic voices of the modern world. He had spent his entire lifetime revising and adding to the work, which broke new ground in its treatment of the individual, eroticism, mortality, and the trauma of the Civil War. This rich cross section of his work includes poems from throughout Whitman's lifetime, the early short story 'The Child's Champion,' 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.'