HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Leaves of Grass
Author: Walt Whitman
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, republished in 2012
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Teens and adults
Rating: *** 3 stars (FAIR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass (originally published in 1855; selections republished in 1961 by Avanel Books, a division of Crown Publishers, 419 Park Ave. S., New York City, NY 10016). When I was in high school chorus, during my sophomore year (1970) we sang a song in which composer Ralph E. Williams set to music a poem beginning, “Root and leaves themselves alone are these; Scents brought to men and women from the wild woods, and from the pond-side,” by poet Walt Whitman, taken from his Leaves of Grass. Also, my brother had a book of selections from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Walter “Walt” Whitman (May 31, 1819 – March 26, 1892) was an American poet, essayist, and journalist, who was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse, whose work was very controversial in its time, particularly his poetry collection Leaves of Grass.
Whitman’s major work, Leaves of Grass, which he began writing as early as 1850, was first published in 1855 with his own money. The work was an attempt at reaching out to the common person with a distinctly American epic using free verse with a cadence based on the Bible. He continued expanding and revising this collection several times over his lifetime until his death in 1892. In addition to “Roots and Leaves Themselves Alone,” Leaves of Grass contains a plethora of Whitman’s famous works such as “I Hear America Singing,” “Song of Myself,” “O Captain! My Captain!”, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” “I Sing the Body Electric,” and many, many more! Poetry is not my favorite form of reading, and while I do enjoy good poetry, much of Whitman’s escapes me. But there are some good poems here, and anyone who is into American poetry should be acquainted with Walt Whitman’s work.