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Leave of grass is a collection of poetry written by American poet Walt
Whitman. The first edition was published on the 4th of July 1855 and
it was a twelve poem volume. He started writing the first edition in 1819 and
continued adding to his volume in later editions until 1892 reaching over 400
poems in his last compilation. Whitman’s first published collection of poems
was introduced by an essay concerning less the lyrical style and form of the
following poems but rather emphasized the idea of the role of the poet in
American society, the importance of a national literature and challenged the
conventions of poetic expression.

Although his poems were loosely connected, all of Whitman’s work is
generally a celebration of democracy, nature, friendship and love. The Preface
to Leaves of grass is a representation of the author’s philosophy of life and
his beliefs concerning the need of the Unites States to own a new and special
poet that will write about the state’s worth and vices. Whitman’s foregoing
essay, the Preface to leaves of grass, is an essential element in providing an
aid to understanding the subsequent poems of the volume and further grasping
his unique poetic model, a revolution of form and content, and ultimately, a
predecessor of modern American poetry.

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Whitman began his essay abruptly, it seems like it has no beginning, and
even Whitman admits later that he wrote the preface in haste, nevertheless this
is the most poignant work he ever wrote. Walt starts going right into praising
a short history of American liberty, diversity and faith in democracy and emancipation.

“America does not repel the past or what it has
produced under its forms or amid other politics or the idea of castes or the
old religions . . . accepts the lesson with calmness . . . is not so
impatient as has been supposed that the slough still sticks to opinions and manners
and literature while the life which served its requirements has passed into the
new life of the new forms … perceives that the corpse is slowly borne from the
eating and sleeping rooms of the house … perceives that it waits a little while
in the door … that it was fittest for its days … that its action has descended
to the stalwart and well shaped heir who approaches … and that he shall be
fittest for his days. ”

Throughout the essay, Walt Whitman gives credit to each American, man or
woman of all colour, social, religious or academic background and emphasizes
the duty for the “new” poet to write in a way accessible to all individuals, to
use simple words, as life is simple in itself as well as to create original
pieces. “The great poet has
less a mark’d style, and is more the channel of thoughts and things without
increase or diminution, and is the free channel of himself. He swears to his
art, I will not be meddlesome, I will not have in my writing any elegance, or
effect, or originality, to hang in the way between me and the rest like
curtains. I will have nothing hang in the way, not the richest curtains. What I
tell 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 be
transcendent and new.” ) His poems did not rhyme, did not have meter neither
consistent length and the contents were abundant in sexual imagery.

Whitman’s ideal for the new American poet is the
embodiment of all society, of the common people, the poet absorbs the country
as the country absorbs him (apud Whitman). His work must be inspired by his
people and he himself must inspire the nation in the pursuing of the most fruitious
endeavours. „He
is not one of the chorus—he does not stop for any regulation—he is the
president of regulation.” Thus the poet is in concept a high figure, compared
to a president.



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