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Song of Myself (Dover Thrift Editions) [Paperback]

Walt Whitman

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Book Description

28 Mar 2003 Dover Thrift Editions
It was with this first version of "Song of Myself," from the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, that Whitman first made himself known to the world. Readers familiar with the later, revised editions will find this first version new, surprising, and often superior to the revisions, and exhilarating in the freshness of its vision.

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About the Author

One of America's most influential and innovative poets, Walt Whitman (1819–92) worked as a teacher, journalist, and volunteer nurse during the Civil War. Proclaimed as the nation's first "poet of democracy," Whitman reached out to common readers and opposed censorship with his overt celebrations of sexuality

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's Whitman . . . wait, it's Mitchell . . . no, it's both 9 Jan 2002
By John S. Ryan - Published on
As with so much of Stephen Mitchell's work, the most important thing is to know what it is before you buy it. It may be exactly what you want, or it may be just the opposite; there's usually not much room in between.
In the present case, Mitchell has done something that some readers might consider pretty hubristic and perhaps even sacrilegious: he has produced an edited version of Walt Whitman's great "Song of Myself" that corresponds to no published version whatsoever.
How? Well, he started with the original (1855) edition of the poem, and then considered _every single change_ Whitman ever made in the poem clear up to his death in 1892. If Mitchell thought the change improved the poem, he left it in; if not, not. The result, for obvious reasons, is a "Song of Myself" that Whitman himself never actually wrote.
That's _not_ necessarily a bad thing. I respect Mitchell's taste and judgment, and I happen to agree with him that some of Whitman's later alterations made the poem worse. In fact I think Mitchell's edition is extremely fine.
But some readers may be looking for a version of "Song of Myself" that reflects Whitman's taste and judgment rather than Mitchell's. So let the buyer be aware.
At any rate I share Mitchell's high estimation of this poem and I'm happy that he's published his edition of it. Whitman belongs with Emerson and Thoreau on a shortlist of great American sages; this single poem is a large part of the reason why.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book, remakable, the reviews? I am confused. 3 July 2007
By Julie Jordan Scott - Published on
Special preview note:

I have to say these reviews confuse me because I see nothing about Stephen Mitchell in the book I hold in my hands. I don't know where the reference comes from at all, so I am going to write as if I don't know what the reviewers are using as a reference to Mitchell... and now I see, those reviewers were reading an entirely different version of the book - so if you are interested in the Dover edition, my review stands. If you are looking at the Shambala edition, what I say still stands, for the most part... except I haven't read the Mitchell edits and now I understand some of the disdain! And it makes me VERY curious, would like to read both versions side-by-side.)

From the preface: This dover edition, first published in 2001, is a unabridged republication from the first 1855 edition of "Leaves of Grass."

I sat here, today, re-reading some of the sections I had highlighted from my first read of this epic-length-poem. I wondered, "What would the world be like if each of us took the time to write a 'Song of Myself' according to our own witness of the world we live within?

Walt Whitman does exactly that in this poem - he doesn't seek to be understood, he doesn't seek to please the reader, he is simply being present to his world and then capture his meandering path into words and serve it onto the page.

Then it is up to us, as the readers, to take our spoon-fuls of Whitman and savor each one.

There is much to be learned, experienced, enjoyed, discovered in these words within this very slim volume. Savor each one and consider writing your own song.

Now I am off to begin mine.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Like a flight around the world (but a little breezy) 5 Dec 2005
By khw - Published on
Reading Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself," he seems to have lived a thousand years and not yet lost his innocence. The "Song of Myself" reads as a inventory of the earth's "plenty," or as a benevolent God might observe his people. Whitman is a celebrant of all things earthy and American. I believe he is correct when he says, "These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they are not original with me," (354) but Whitman is certainly the first to collect all of these thoughts and record them so together and beautifully. He seems like an Eastern philosopher at times when he speaks of the cycles of earth.

He is high on life; a little too much at times, perhaps. In victory and defeat he finds joy. His candidness about his acceptance of women and men, races and creeds, seems ahead of its time.

The descriptions of the motion of life in sections 15, 31, and 33 (and many others) paints a picture of constant energy across the land and surrounding sea. He moves from line to line as he sweeps across the land, profiling the deck-hand, the paving man, the conductor, the drover, and these words are rich in images for us to imagine the era he lived in.

To read this poem in our age of instant electronic connectivity, we cannot quite carry the tune as well. So many of these occupations have faded away, we have left the fields for office space.
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What gall Stephen Mitchell has to edit Walt Whitman... 25 May 2005
By Kirk McElhearn - Published on
How can Stephen Mitchell even think of such an abberation - editing Walt Whitman's greatest poem? Sure, there are several versions of the Song of Myself, but if you want to read Whitman, read the original. The first version is the most powerful, and Whitman toned it down over the years, turning it into "poetry" rather than his initial burst of enthusiasm. There are several editions of the poem that will let you get the true texts: for example, the Library of America's complete Whitman has both the first version of Leaves of Grass and the "deathbed" version, which Whitman revised shortly before his death. There are other versions throughout Whitman's career, as he added poems to the Leaves, and tinkered with existing poems. But this book is a sham. Avoid it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent piece of literature. 21 Feb 2011
By Timothy - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent reading. Very well written and easy to stay involved. I recommend this to everyone who wants to improve their vocabulary or just learn about the depth of detail that exist to those who look for it.
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