Download Leaves of Grass as PDF
Leaves of Grass is a collection of poems by Walt Whitman, which was self-published in 1855. It has its origins in an essay written by Ralph Waldo Emerson 10 years earlier titled The Poet, which called for a new poetic voice that embodied the spirit of America. Some of its well-known poems include "Song of Myself" and "I Sing the Body Electric," and most were fiddled with and added to over the course of Whitman's life.
Whitman wanted his book to be small enough to fit in a reader's pocket, as it was more likely to be read in the "open air." And he noted "I am nearly always successful with the reader in the open air." The title of the book is also a pun: "Grass" was a term that publishers ascribed to inferior literary works and "leaves" refer to the pages on which they were printed. It was considered "obscene literature" when it first came out, and critics accused its anonymous author of homosexuality. Poetry at the time was highly allegorical, and sensuous references to one's body was more than sensible folk could stomach back then. Leaves of Grass is a masterpiece of American poetry, and it is a song to America itself.
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