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Leaves of Grass

(Iowa Whitman Series)

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  93,008 ratings  ·  2,727 reviews
A collection of quintessentially American poems, the seminal work of one of the most influential writers of the nineteenth century.
Paperback, 624 pages
Published August 1st 2006 by Simon Schuster (first published July 4th 1855)
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Megan Mweemba Yes, especially the "Song of Myself" section. …moreYes, especially the "Song of Myself" section. (less)
Maggie I would say that this book of poetry would be too advanced for a person learning English. You asked this question 10 months ago so perhaps you've adva…moreI would say that this book of poetry would be too advanced for a person learning English. You asked this question 10 months ago so perhaps you've advanced in your English studies.

However, if you want to learn a wide range of new vocabulary, you could definitely give this book a good try. Just make sure to have a dictionary close by! Good luck! (less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.11  · 
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 ·  93,008 ratings  ·  2,727 reviews

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Sep 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Whitman used to right fake reviews under false names for Leaves of Grass and send them to publishers, newspapers, and periodicals. I love that about him. So over the top. He had love for everything. Especially himself. As for the quality of the work the words speak for themselves:
"This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not co
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, english
Don't pay attention to me, I'm currently high on poetry.


In Leaves of Grass Walt Whitman sings nature and his symbiosis with America, he sings the universe and his awareness of it all, but above all he sings the people and their quest for individuality and immortality. ‘The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.’ And here he includes himself with all his mysticism and spiritual illuminations. In that, it is a celebration of humanity, his country and everything in it. Some parts of his poems were so bea ...more
Lauren Schumacher
Aug 05, 2013 rated it did not like it
When Leaves of Grass was first published, critics applauded Whitman "only that he did not burn" the "mass of stupid filth" immediately upon completion. They primarily objected to its sensual and occasionally (rather overtly) homoerotic content. Nowadays, of course, it seems entirely too mild to raise an objection on those grounds, but man, oh man, I understand the impulse to want to turn this book into kindling.

It's less like THIS...

...and more like THIS.

This weighty poetic tome has all
Jan 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alright, my rating here is very misleading. I haven't read Leaves Of Grass. I don't even intend to read Leaves Of Grass. Not all the way through any way. It seems sort of weird to just read a big fat collection of poetry all the way through. The five star rating is for one poem, "Song of the Open Road".

I've never really appreciated poetry. I've liked song lyrics and that's poetry, but it seemed like I needed a tune to go with it. I've liked scripture which can be pretty poetic, but it seemed I n
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Whitman sings the song of America like no other poet I know--the outsized joy and pain, the affinity for common folk and the love of nature and the sheer overwhelming feeling of every sight and sound and industrious noise around him. "I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear," he wrote. Because of this some are tempted to see Whitman as a poet of pure exuberance--like a proto-hippie or, worse, like a garrulous Hallmark card. But Whitman doesn't shy away from pain at all--he embraces it l ...more
Miranda Reads
Jan 04, 2020 marked it as to-read

We can look at this one of two ways, either I'm a bit late to do a Christmas Book Haul video or I'm hella early for next year.

(Click the link to see what other books arrived via the polar express).
Ben Wilson
Nov 27, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: democrats, republicans, flag-shitters
Recommended to Ben by: President Clinton gave this as a present to Monica Lewinsky
Shelves: neverfinished
Leaves of Grass is like reading every single instant message that I and a friend of mine ever wrote to one another over the course of the last ten years. Likely way too long, too self-serving and would have shocked the general public if they cared to read it when it was written. But nestled in there are some real, true brilliant moments.

This is after all Whitman's life work, laid bare and un-edited for the most part. What else are we to expect? He is literally singing a song of himself, which he
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Too long ago to remember. All I recall was the flow. I've not read anything from this author since I was about 16. Nearly 40 years ago. I loved it. Sometimes things I loved then aren't what I love now. So, I don't re-read! I was softer then. Now, I might find my eyes rolling right out of my eye sockets! I love Robert Service. That's about as deep as I go now. Still, he has a few that I've read multiple times, and every time I think of them, and start uttering the words, I have nightmares! ...more
Susan Budd
To read American poetry
is to breathe America.
With Whitman I inhale
the kosmos. I expand.
With Dickinson I exhale,
become nobody. I contract.
Visionaries both. They are
the Yang and Yin of
American poetry.
Mar 18, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, walt-whitman
The most impressive, of course, is "Song of Myself", after, the style of the poems becomes rather repetitive. And though it is said that "he uses repetition, which helps to develop a certain type of magical rhythm to accentuate the ideas stated in the poem", it becomes too much when it reoccurs in every single poem.

The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and dark-color’dsea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,
The sound of the belch’d words of my voice loos’d to the eddies of the win
Apr 12, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up-on
Holy shit this is self-important and tedious.

--update: This has sat untouched on my desk all year. I can think of a hundred books I'd rather start than finish this, so I doubt I'll pick it back up unless I run out of books to read, I'm too poor to buy any more books, all my friends turn on me and refuse to loan me anything else, and all the nearby libraries are set on fire simultaneously.
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
Did you know that the letters in "Leaves of Grass" can be rearranged to spell "Asses of Gravel"?
If you find yourself anagramming the letters in the title rather than reading the poetry, it's a good sign you're not into the book. But I really wanted some of whatever Whitman was smoking that made him so ecstatically, ebulliently enthusiastic about every molecule on the planet. Including his own b.o.

"The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer."

Huh??? Was this guy sniffing glue along wi
There's only so much rhetoric on American imperialism I can ingest and assimilate at a stretch. Later, Mr Whitman.

(paused at 47%)
Jan 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
“I celebrate myself, and sing myself"
I read a translation in Dutch of the original edition of 1855, with only 12 poems, and the first one occupies half of the book. This minimal approach (later versions were much, much more elaborate) has the effect of a trumpet call, it's pure vitalism, colored by a strong physical sensuality. It expresses deep faith in life and death, and a sense of belonging to all (a kind of transcendentalism), the organic and the anorganic, the whole universe. At the same t
Bryan  Jones
May 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Song of Myself" is a work of pure genius comparable to Shakespeare's greatest. I love these last three stanzas especially. When my wife and I were dating long distance and when I was deployed, I would end alot of my letters with "I stop somewhere waiting for you."

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love.
If you want me again look for me under your bootsoles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,

But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blo
I read it in my living room. Read it by the sea. Read it in the afternoon, at sunset and at night. I read it from mid-winter through mid-spring. Read it while sad, read it while content, read it while not giving a fuck. I read it and understood it, read it and misinterpreted it.
I read it.
Do I seem weird?
Do I care?
Chavelli Sulikowska
Atmospheric, ephemeral. Transcendental. It’s like going on a long walk during a misty rain – everything is being presented as new and fresh, but a little bit blurry and sometimes it is hard to see where you are or the way ahead.

There’s not much that Whitman fails to elucidate in this epic prose-poem. I read it in stages, slowly, while reading another novel. I think it was best digested this way. Subject wise it is very dense, but because of the poetic style, Whitman has had to choose his words
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
“I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles”

‘I will not make poems with reference to parts,
But I will make poems, songs, thoughts, with reference to ensemble,
And I will not sing with reference to a day, but with reference to all days,
And I will not make a poem nor the least part of a poem but has reference to the soul,
Because having look’d at the objects of the universe,
I find there is no one nor any particle of one but
Jan 18, 2021 added it
Maybe one day I will get into poetry but today isn't that day. ...more
Z. F.
I can't believe it, but I'm actually DNF-ing Walt Whitman.

I'm not a literary coward, alright? I read old books and long books and poetry books (and old long books of poetry) all the time. I've read Moby-Dick and Middlemarch and Anna Karenina and The Brothers Karamazov and The Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost and half of Shakespeare's corpus, and I enjoyed 'em too! Yet here I find myself, done in by a not-even-that-long collection of not-even-that-old poems. What the hell.

Dec 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Whitman, where have you been all my life? But seriously, as someone whose acquaintance with the great "bard of Democracy" had hitherto been strictly secondhand, I was blown away by Leaves of Grass (1855), with how fresh and modern it felt—from its formal elements (language, rhythms, structure...) to the radical egalitarianism of Whitman's vision.

And in a way, I guess I'm even glad for Harold Bloom's painfully overwritten and largely unhelpful introductory essay (2005), which, if anything, only s
Aug 16, 2011 marked it as to-read
To quote Robert Louis Stevenson:
…like a large shaggy dog just unchained scouring the beaches of the world and baying at the moon.
But let's look at the positive side. Monica Lewinsky gave a copy to Bill Clinton as a present.
Jenny Beth
Feb 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pour-y-vivre
Few people know that I curl up with Song of Myself whenever i am depressed. i gave a nice boy from England my beautiful edition once as a birthday gift, so now i curl up with this dreadful Norton Anthology edition where the pages are thinner than onion skins. once i get to the end and reread some of my favorites bits i always find i am ready to rejoin the family of mankind again as tolerable, if not pleasurable, company. I think, as many do, that the affirmation and daring and greed and urgency ...more
Jan 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Yes, I did read this because John Green told me to in Paper Towns. If I didn't have cooler people advising me what to read/watch/listen to, I'd never do anything at all.

In any case, I was pleasantly surprised at how I wanted to continue reading once I finished Song of Myself, considering that it's the only Whitman poem I was familiar with (since it's the one that's quoted in both Paper Towns and The Dead Poets Society. I liked most of the poems, although Whitman is a fan of listing things. Over
Terence M
Audiobook - 18:53 hours - Read by: Robin Field
I have actually 'read' this book at least twice before now. This week I finished listening to all of the poems in “Leaves of Grass” but it has taken about 14 months to do so. I am not a poetry buff, but this work of Whitman’s, given as a gift to me more than 60 years ago, strikes a special chord in my being. I had great affection for the gift giver who loved and protected me in my later teenage years.
“I am he bringing help for the sick as they pant on their backs.
And for strong upright men I bring yet more needed help.
I heard what was said of the universe,
Heard it and heard it of several thousand years;
It is middling well as far as it goes—but is that all?”

Song of Myself, Canto 41

This canto sort of sums up what I love about Whitman. He reminds me that there is so much to celebrate, reminds me that what has been said is not all.

There’s a reason why we’ve all heard about the yawp and the boot-
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it

Disclaimer: Haven't read the whole book, I've only read The Collected Poems edition.

Favorite poems:
The Sleepers
Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
Aug 26, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: classics, dnf
Holy crap this is boring and pretentious. Admittedly, I don't like poetry, but I'm trying to make my way through some books that are considered classics. This is a DNF for me. IMO, poetry needs to rhyme. I'll stick with Dr. Seuess from now on. ...more
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Walter Whitman was an American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist. He 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.

Born on Long Island, Whitman worked as a journalist, a teacher, a government clerk, and a volunteer nurse during

Other books in the series

Iowa Whitman Series (1 - 10 of 38 books)
  • A Place for Humility: Whitman, Dickinson, and the Natural World
  • A Whitman Chronology
  • The Afterlives of Specimens: Science, Mourning, and Whitman's Civil War
  • Conserving Walt Whitman's Fame: Selections from Horace Traubel's Conservator, 1890-1919
  • Constructing the German Walt Whitman
  • The Correspondence, Vol. VII
  • Democratic Vistas: The Original Edition in Facsimile
  • "The Disenthralled Hosts of Freedom": Party Prophecy in the Antebellum Editions of Leaves of Grass
  • Every Hour, Every Atom: A Collection of Walt Whitman's Early Notebooks and Fragments
  • The Evolution of Walt Whitman

Articles featuring this book

Every month is a good month to appreciate poetry, but in April it's an official thing. Founded in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets,...
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“Resist much, obey little.” 5877 likes
“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)”
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