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Selection Resources"RILLIANTß-AVERICKS±ß7HITMANßANDß$ICKINSONDIDßYOUßKNOW±ß7ALTß7HITMANß±ß±ß±ß DROPPEDßOUTßOFßSCHOOLßATßAGEß²²±ß SENTßAßCOPYßOFß,EAVESßOFß'RASSßTOßPOETß*OHNß'REENLEAFß7HITTIER³ßWHOßTHREWßITßINTOßTHEßFIRE±ß HADß4HOMASß%DISONßRECORDßHIMßREADINGßONEßOFßHISßPOEMS±-EETßTHEß!UTHORWhen Walt Whitman’s book of poems Leaves of Grassfirst appeared, many people were shocked by its controversial content and revolutionary form. Of the 800 copies printed, most were eventually thrown away. However, a few readers recognized the poet’s genius. In a letter to Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson called Leaves of Grass“the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed.”4HEß-AKINGßOFßAß0OETßNothing Whitman wrote beforeLeaves of Grasscontained any hint of what was to come. He burst onto the literary scene full-bodied and brash, like one of his poems.His early years offered little in the way of preparation. Born in 1819, Whitman grew up in rural Long Island and crowded Brooklyn. He held a series of jobs including office boy, typesetter, printer, newspaper editor, school teacher, carpenter, and journalist. In the 1840s, Whitman published a number of poems and short stories—and even a fairly successful novel—but these were conventional efforts.Apparently, however, Whitman was just waiting for the proper inspiration. Upon reading Emerson, he realized that he could celebrate all aspects of nature and humanity by using spiritual language. “I was simmering, simmering, simmering,” he once declared. “Emerson brought me to a boil.”!Nß!MERICANß"ARDßIn the early 1850s, Whitman quit his job as a journalist and worked on Leaves of Grass. Declaring a kind of literary Independence Day, he printed his 12-poem book on July 4, 1855, at his own expense; he even set some of the type himself. Throughout his lifetime, Whitman would continue to rewrite, revise, and expand Leaves of Grass. The ninth and final edition, published in 1892, contained nearly 400 poems.Unfettered by traditional poetic conventions and grammatical structures, Whitman captured the vitality, optimism, and voice of his native land. He celebrated all aspects of American life—the unique and the commonplace, the beautiful and the ugly.Whitman once claimed that “the proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.” By that measure and any other, Whitman is one of the most successful poets in history. Today Leaves of Grassis widely regarded as the most influential book of poetry in American literature.7ALTß7HITMANß±²±³¯±²³´3ELECTEDß0OETRYBYß7ALTß7HITMAN+%97/2$±ß(-,²²³´µ¶![email protected];<F±[email protected]<I'OßTOßTHINKCENTRAL±COMµßß+%97/2$±ß(-,²²³´µ¶"8lk_fi±Fec`e\±²³2%!$).'ß²ß!NALYZEßTHEßEFFECTSßOFßMETRICS³ßRHYMEßSCHEMES³ßANDßOTHERßCONVENTIONSßINß!MERICANßPOETRY±Essential Course of StudyecosFocus and MotivateREADING3 Analyze the effects of metrics, rhyme