Discussion Forums - Classic Literature

Topic: Whitman's "Leaves of Grass"

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Subject: Whitman's "Leaves of Grass"
Date Posted: 4/2/2010 7:38 PM ET
Member Since: 1/23/2009
Posts: 3,041
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I graduated with an English degree, but I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I have never read "Leaves of Grass". After reading an upcoming historical fiction about Louisa May Alcott, I want to discover what Louisa loved so much about Whitman. Can anyone recommend to me their favorite edition (unabridged, please!) of "Leaves of Grass"?

Date Posted: 4/3/2010 12:43 AM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,538
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First of all, my idea of poetry is bass-ackwards from what Whitman does. Second, I can't figure out either how anyone could ever get any idea of what Louisa loved about it unless she elaborated same in her diaries. Third, I have several editions, I guess, no idea which is which edition. What difference does it make.

In discussing literature, the phrase sui generis is sometimes used. It means, literally, without ancestors. In all literature, what works qualify? Virtually none. Within the specific area of poetry, what are the ancestors of Leaves of Grass?  What that came before can one say clearly influenced Whitman? (as in, Woody Guthrie was clearly a primary influence on Dylan). Well, virtually nothing. No rhyme. No meter. Who had ever done that before? No one I know of in our alphabet. We are talking about, when was it, 1845.

So take it as a given that Leaves of Grass is, in deed, poetry. So read it, without holding any  views on the matter. Listen to Whitman, watch him, then begin to figure out what he trying to say, and why he used the rhyme and meter

Date Posted: 4/3/2010 2:58 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
Posts: 25,000
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I Sing the Body Electric...

I know this phrase thanks to the Twilight Zone, thanks to Ray Bradbury who wrote the episode with same title, thanks to Walt who apparently wrote a poem with the same title in his LoG collection.


I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.

Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?




I prefer to engirth Shel Silverstein and Billy Collins.

Date Posted: 4/3/2010 9:04 PM ET
Member Since: 1/23/2009
Posts: 3,041
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I'm so in over my head with Whitman. *scratches head* It's public domain, so I downloaded it to my iPhone and will try to give it an effort. I'm thinking I might prefer Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss just a bit more....