American literature and culture are inconceivable without the towering presence of Walt Whitman. Expansive, ecstatic, original in ways that continue to startle and to elicit new discoveries, Whitman’s poetry is a testament to the surging energies of 19th-century America and a monument to the transforming power of literary genius. His incantatory rhythms, revolutionary sense of Eros, and generous, all-embracing vision invite renewed wonder at each reading. Although he has been a defining influence for many poets—Garcia Lorca, Fernando Pessoa, Robinson Jeffers, and Allen Ginsberg—his style is ultimately inimitable, and his achievement unsurpassed in American poetry.
“One always wants to start out fresh with Whitman,” writes Harold Bloom in his introduction, “and read him as though he never has been read before.” In a selection that ranges from early notebook fragments and the complete “Song of Myself” to the valedictory “Good-bye My Fancy!,” Bloom has chosen 47 works to represent “the principal writer that America—North, Central, or South—has brought to us.”
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“Who, could possibly make another selection [of Walt Whitman] seem fresh? Who is definitely Harold Bloom, dean of American literary critics, who considers Whitman ‘the principal writer that America—North, Central, or South—has brought to us.’ . . . Bloom connects Whitman’s project to the thesis of his The American Religion (1992) that the tendency of religion in America is to replace God with man, and with the fragments, Bloom presents explicit evidence of the attempt.” —Booklist