Walt Whitman believed that America should have a new poetry for the country, and not one that was steeped in British traditions, that it should speak of the democracy of the country. He developed his own unique style that has risen to him being called the 'Father of Free Verse'. However when he was first published in the US he met with mixed reactions, especially as some of his poetry was of a sexual element. In this country and throughout Europe though hs poetry was more generally admired.
Whitman wrote of the land he lived in, the people who inhabited that land, and tackled the Civil War, slavery, and equality for all. If you first look at his poetry you will immediately see that it doesn't rhyme, that the verses are of different lengths, and you may think that it is just mindless rambling. How wrong you would be though. Reading Whitman you soon grasp that his poetry has an internal rythmn, which probably accounts for many composers adding music to it. At times though it has to be admitted, his poems do become repetitive as he writes a lot that can seem to be like lists. All in all though this is a great book to read, collecting all his poems together, and has an excellant introduction by Stephen Matterson, as well as essays and newspaper accounts about the man himself.
Whitman's poems were very influential amongst the Beat Generation, and reading this book you can quite see why. His poems also help give a greater understanding to the fledgling country that was still being created.