Abraham Lincoln read it with approval, but Emily Dickinson described its bold language and themes as "disgraceful". And Ralph Waldo Emerson found Leaves of Grass "the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed," calling it a "combination of the Bhagavad Gita and the New York Herald."
Published at the author's own expense on July 4, 1855, Leaves of Grass initially consisted of a preface, 12 untitled poems in free verse (including the work later titled "Song of Myself", which Malcolm Cowley called "one of the great poems of modern times"), and a now-famous portrait of a devil-may-care Walt Whitman in a workman's shirt. Over the next four decades, Whitman continually expanded and revised the book as he took on the role of a workingman's bard who championed American nationalism, political democracy, contemporary progress, and unashamed sex. This volume, which contains 383 poems, is the final "Deathbed Edition", which was published in 1892.
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Mel Foster has a very good understanding of Walt Whitman's poetry. He must have read a lot of it before he did this recording. He probably loved Whitman's poetry before he got this job.
I for one am sick of "way back then" styles of reading poetry. It wasn't "back then" when it was written. It should be read by someone who thinks of it as immediate and meaningful. Especially Walt Whitman's poetry.
I'm baffled as to what some people were expecting.
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