Leave of grass is a collection of poetry written by American poet WaltWhitman. The first edition was published on the 4th of July 1855 andit was a twelve poem volume. He started writing the first edition in 1819 andcontinued adding to his volume in later editions until 1892 reaching over 400poems in his last compilation. Whitman’s first published collection of poemswas introduced by an essay concerning less the lyrical style and form of thefollowing poems but rather emphasized the idea of the role of the poet inAmerican society, the importance of a national literature and challenged theconventions of poetic expression.Although his poems were loosely connected, all of Whitman’s work isgenerally a celebration of democracy, nature, friendship and love. The Prefaceto Leaves of grass is a representation of the author’s philosophy of life andhis beliefs concerning the need of the Unites States to own a new and specialpoet that will write about the state’s worth and vices. Whitman’s foregoingessay, the Preface to leaves of grass, is an essential element in providing anaid to understanding the subsequent poems of the volume and further graspinghis unique poetic model, a revolution of form and content, and ultimately, apredecessor of modern American poetry.Whitman began his essay abruptly, it seems like it has no beginning, andeven Whitman admits later that he wrote the preface in haste, nevertheless thisis the most poignant work he ever wrote.
Walt starts going right into praisinga short history of American liberty, diversity and faith in democracy and emancipation. “America does not repel the past or what it hasproduced under its forms or amid other politics or the idea of castes or theold religions . .
. accepts the lesson with calmness . . . is not soimpatient as has been supposed that the slough still sticks to opinions and mannersand literature while the life which served its requirements has passed into thenew life of the new forms … perceives that the corpse is slowly borne from theeating and sleeping rooms of the house … perceives that it waits a little whilein the door … that it was fittest for its days … that its action has descendedto the stalwart and well shaped heir who approaches … and that he shall befittest for his days.
“Throughout the essay, Walt Whitman gives credit to each American, man orwoman of all colour, social, religious or academic background and emphasizesthe duty for the “new” poet to write in a way accessible to all individuals, touse simple words, as life is simple in itself as well as to create originalpieces. “The great poet hasless a mark’d style, and is more the channel of thoughts and things withoutincrease or diminution, and is the free channel of himself. He swears to hisart, I will not be meddlesome, I will not have in my writing any elegance, oreffect, or originality, to hang in the way between me and the rest likecurtains. I will have nothing hang in the way, not the richest curtains. What Itell I tell for precisely what it is.” So he did in his poetry, a formless poetry,a free verse,original for resembling nothing to the earlier of American poetry. (“The expression of the American poet is to betranscendent and new.” ) His poems did not rhyme, did not have meter neitherconsistent length and the contents were abundant in sexual imagery.
Whitman’s ideal for the new American poet is theembodiment of all society, of the common people, the poet absorbs the countryas the country absorbs him (apud Whitman). His work must be inspired by hispeople and he himself must inspire the nation in the pursuing of the most fruitiousendeavours. „Heis not one of the chorus—he does not stop for any regulation—he is thepresident of regulation.” Thus the poet is in concept a high figure, comparedto a president.