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Selected poems / Walt Whitman; ed. Harold Bloom

Main Author Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892 Secondary Author Bloom, Harold, 1930- Country Estados Unidos. Publication New York : The Library of America, cop. 2004 Description XXXI, 221 p. ; 20 cm Series American poets project , 4 ISBN 1-931082-32-4 CDU 820(73) WHITMAN
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

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."

About the American Poets Project
Elegantly designed in compact editions, printed on acid-free paper, and textually authoritative, the American Poets Project makes available the full range of the American poetic accomplishment, selected and introduced by today's most discerning poets and critics.

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • Introduction (p. xv)
  • I Early Notebook Fragments of "Song of Myself"
  • "I am your voice--It was tied in you--In me it begins to talk" (p. 3)
  • "I am the poet of reality" (p. 3)
  • "One touch of a tug of me has unhaltered all my senses but feeling" (p. 4)
  • "Afar in the sky was a nest" (p. 6)
  • "The crowds naked in the bath" (p. 7)
  • "In vain were nails driven through my hands" (p. 7)
  • "There is no word in any tongue" (p. 8)
  • II
  • Song of Myself (p. 11)
  • III
  • "I wander all night in my vision" [The Sleepers] (p. 95)
  • Crossing Brooklyn Ferry (p. 109)
  • Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking (p. 117)
  • I Ebb'd with the Ocean of Life (p. 126)
  • When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd (p. 130)
  • IV
  • Poets to Come (p. 145)
  • To the Garden the World (p. 145)
  • From Pent-up Aching Rivers (p. 146)
  • I Sing the Body Electric (p. 149)
  • A Woman Waits for Me (p. 160)
  • Spontaneous Me (p. 162)
  • Ages and Ages Returning at Intervals (p. 165)
  • O Hymen! O Hymenee! (p. 166)
  • I Am He that Aches with Love (p. 166)
  • Facing West from California's Shores (p. 166)
  • As Adam Early in the Morning (p. 167)
  • V
  • In Paths Untrodden (p. 171)
  • Scented Herbage of My Breast (p. 172)
  • Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand (p. 174)
  • Of the Terrible Doubt of Appearances (p. 176)
  • City of Orgies (p. 178)
  • I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing (p. 178)
  • VI
  • On the Beach at Night (p. 183)
  • The World Below the Brine (p. 184)
  • A Hand-Mirror (p. 185)
  • The Dalliance of the Eagles (p. 186)
  • As Toilsome I Wander'd Virginia's Woods (p. 187)
  • The Wound-Dresser (p. 188)
  • Reconciliation (p. 192)
  • There Was a Child Went Forth (p. 192)
  • VII
  • Chanting the Square Deific (p. 199)
  • A Noiseless Patient Spider (p. 202)
  • O Living Always, Always Dying (p. 203)
  • The Last Invocation (p. 203)
  • A Clear Midnight (p. 204)
  • Good-Bye my Fancy (p. 204)
  • When the Full-Grown Poet Came (p. 204)
  • Good-Bye my Fancy! (p. 205)
  • "Respondez! Respondez!" (p. 206)
  • Biographical Note (p. 213)
  • Note on the Texts (p. 215)
  • Notes (p. 217)
  • Index of Titles and First Lines (p. 219)

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

These inaugural volumes in "The American Poets Project" series form a useful introduction to the evolution of modern American poetry in loose historical progression. The volume on Whitman, father of modern American poetry, restores the voice of a poet who initiated free verse to speak of a growing America and thus takes us into the 20th century and beyond. Fortunately, editor Bloom ignores all of the psycho-social-sexual labels doled out to Whitman and lauds him simply as "the principal writer that America...has brought to us." Selections include some of Whitman's best, e.g., "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" and the spiritual bridge between Whitman and his future readers, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry." Millay, one of America's strongest female poets, is similar in her metrics to 19th-century poets, but her flamelike intensity is pure 20th century. When she died in 1950, her poetry almost died with her; not until after the women's rights movements did her once acclaimed verse resurface. Editor McClatchy provides a generous sample of her poetry, highlighting her early years ("Renascence," "A Few Figs from Thistles"), the lesser-known poems never before published, and the posthumously published "Mine the Harvest." World War II sliced the 20th century in half and forever changed the American way of life as idealism and self-reliance ceded to franchising and instant gratification. The poets appearing in the World War II anthology-compiled by Harvey Shapiro, himself a poet of the war-portend this major mind shift by their tone, which questions rather than sanctions patriotism, valor, and the values of the 1940s. Arranged by the poets' birth dates, the poems include Robinson Jeffers's cynical nod to violence as a natural cause of earth events; Randall Jarrell's graphic depictions of airborne death; and John Ciardi's whimsical renditions of horror. Lastly, Karl Shapiro, one of the more influential voices of the late 20th century, displayed complex and contrary tendencies in both his life and his poetry. Editor Updike notes that Shapiro's experimentation with voices and forms alienated those who admired the metrical dexterity of his early poems. This commanding new series, which the Library of America will expand each spring and fall season by adding two or three titles, is a worthy addition to all libraries.-Nedra Crowe Evers, Sacramento P.L., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

Of the first four newly assembled collections in the American Poets Project, the most exceptional is Harvey Shapiro's selection of poems on World War II, the lion's share of them by poets who were soldiers. As Shapiro points out, whereas several World War I poems were well known to those who served in World War II, the only well-known poem of the second war is Randall Jarrell's tiny chiller "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner." Perhaps that is because, Shapiro observes, the poems he presents are sharply different from the most famous World War I poems. The latter are by upper-class Englishmen who served as officers, and whose class solidarity shows in sweet patriotism and sweeter camaraderie, which endured after patriotism was soured by disillusionment. Shapiro's selections are by Americans who served as enlistees, older civilians jaundiced by the first war, and conscientious objectors. There is virtually no patriotism in them, and certainly no class feeling. They are the work of individuals wrenched out of normality and compelled to depend for their lives on others who in turn depend on them for theirs, but who don't feel compelled to like one another or to sacrifice themselves for their fellows. This state of consciousness is nowhere more forcefully expressed than in the harrowing long poem "World War II," about the crash of the bomber that Edward Field navigated into the North Sea. Many other fine poems come out of the war in the air, including Shapiro's own, though some of the sharpest, especially Louis Simpson's alarming rhymed quatrains and the excerpt from Peter Bowman's verse novel, Beach Red (1945), are infantrymen's work. The other three books are fresh examples of a familiar phenomenon, the representative selection of a major poet's work. McClatchy's Millay and Updike's Karl Shapiro--no relation to Harvey, and an even better known World War II poet--would be fresh for no other reason than that, arriving in this series, they seem to make major-status claims for their poets. But each does more. McClatchy's is the largest Millay selection ever, drawn from all her verse books to display her career-long adroitness in her favorite form, the sonnet, and her variety by including even excerpts from an opera libretto and the one-act antiwar play Aria da Capo. Immensely popular in her lifetime (she was the first poet to broadcast regularly), Millay (1892^-1950) won fame as a teenager with her al fresco and imaginatively post obitum effusion on love and death, "Renascence," and as her preoccupation with the sonnet suggests, she stuck with those themes and the related one of time. That implies a certain one-chord quality about her, and indeed, the sonnets rather blur together. Read occasionally and mixed with her saucy lyrics about erotic love, they reveal their strengths--not of imagery, but of surprising attitudes expressed within strictly observed poetic conventions. Her work is very much new (modern) wine in old (classical) bottles. Karl Shapiro (1913^-2000) is much easier to sell than Millay. Even more technically adroit, Shapiro worked in--he did not experiment with--virtually every verse form, and he wrote engrossing and amusing prose poems. Updike likes Shapiro's concreteness, his concern with and for society, and his accessibility. For those qualities, Shapiro's mentor was William Carlos Williams; stylistically, as Updike says, "Auden gave him his voice." Commenting on observable facts in poems such as "Auto Wreck," "The Fly," and "Troop Train"; on other poets and poetry in Essay on Rime; and on his own life, especially his Jewishness (he was resolutely secular), Shapiro was contrary, opinionated, and very funny, shrewd, intelligent, and democratic. Updike's selection is, fortunately, quite different from Stanley Kunitz and David Ignatow's Shapiro culling in The Wild Card (1998), and most who read one will want to read the other, and then probably seek out Shapiro's original collections and his essays, memoirs, and novel. As for Whitman--collected andselected so often--what, or who, could possibly make another selection 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's best single descriptive of Whitman is "immediate," to which any reader of "Song of Myself" will assent: Whitman is with his readers ("If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles" ). Bloom is concerned with Whitman's construction of his all-encompassing persona, and he selects with that in mind: first, some fragments of what became "Song of Myself"; then the "Song" itself in its final form; then four great poems of, Bloom argues, persona-shaping crisis, as well as "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"; and three sections of other, successively later poems. 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. --Ray Olson

Author notes provided by Syndetics

Walt Whitman was born on Long Island and raised in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a carpenter. He left school when he was 11 years old to take a variety of jobs. By the time he was 15, Whitman was living on his own in New York City, working as a printer and writing short pieces for newspapers. He spent a few years teaching, but most of his work was either in journalism or politics. Gradually, Whitman became a regular contributor to a variety of Democratic Party newspapers and reviews, and early in his career established a rather eccentric way of life, spending a great deal of time walking the streets, absorbing life and talking with laborers. Extremely fond of the opera, he used his press pass to spend many evenings in the theater.

In 1846, Whitman became editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, a leading Democratic newspaper. Two years later, he was fired for opposing the expansion of slavery into the west.

Whitman's career as a poet began in 1885, with the publication of the first edition of his poetry collection, Leaves of Grass. The book was self-published (Whitman probably set some of the type himself), and despite his efforts to publicize it - including writing his own reviews - few people read it. One reader who did appreciate it was essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote a letter greeting Whitman at "the beginning of a great career." Whitman's poetry was unlike any verse that had ever been seen. Written without rhyme, in long, loose lines, filled with poetic lists and exclamations taken from Whitman's reading of the Bible, Homer, and Asian poets, these poems were totally unlike conventional poetry. Their subject matter, too, was unusual - the celebration of a free-spirited individualist whose love for all things and people seemed at times disturbingly sensual. In 1860, with the publication of the third edition on Leaves of Grass, Whitman alienated conventional thinkers and writers even more. When he went to Boston to meet Emerson, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, essayist Oliver Wendell Holmes, and poet James Russell Lowell, they all objected to the visit.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Whitman's attentions turned almost exclusively to that conflict. Some of the greatest poetry of his career, including Drum Taps (1865) and his magnificent elegy for President Abraham Lincoln, "When Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" (1865), was written during this period. In 1862, his brother George was wounded in battle, and Whitman went to Washington to nurse him. He continued as a hospital volunteer throughout the war, nursing other wounded soldiers and acting as a benevolent father-figure and confidant. Parts of his memoir Specimen Days (1882) record this period.

After the war, Whitman stayed on in Washington, working as a government clerk and continuing to write. In 1873 he suffered a stroke and retired to Camden, New Jersey, where he lived as an invalid for the rest of his life. Ironically, his reputation began to grow during this period, as the public became more receptive to his poetic and personal eccentricities.

Whitman tried to capture the spirit of America in a new poetic form. His poetry is rough, colloquial, sweeping in its vistas - a poetic equivalent of the vast land and its varied peoples. Critic Louis Untermeyer has written, "In spite of Whitman's perplexing mannerisms, the poems justify their boundless contradictions. They shake themselves free from rant and bombastic audacities and rise into the clear air of major poetry. Such poetry is not large but self-assured; it knows, as Whitman asserted, the amplitude of time and laughs at dissolution. It contains continents; it unfolds the new heaven and new earth of the Western world." American poetry has never been the same since Whitman tore it away from its formal and thematic constraints, and he is considered by virtually all critics today to be one of the greatest poets the country has ever produced.

(Bowker Author Biography)

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