Walt Whitman

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Walt Whitman is often considered to be a larger-than-life poet, writing expansive lines and embracing the whole of America as his inspiration. In “Song of Myself” (Part 31), however, he writes,...

Walt Whitman is often considered to be a larger-than-life poet, writing expansive lines and embracing the whole of America as his inspiration. In “Song of Myself” (Part 31), however, he writes, “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journeywork of the stars.” How does Whitman call attention to small objects in “Song of Myself”? Why do you think he called his life's work Leaves of Grass? What does “a leaf of grass” mean to Whitman? To you?

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danijo866 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Whitman's preface to Leaves of Grass, he states the following: "The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem. In the history of the earth hitherto the largest and most stirring appear tame and orderly to their ampler largeness and stir....the genius of the United States is...in the common people....the air they have of persons who never knew how it felt to stand in the presence of superiors." I'd like to use this section of the preface to consider the last part of your question—what a leaf of grass might mean to Whitman.

Expanding upon the answer above, there is something that resonates both in Whitman's preface to the work and in the poem at large about multitudinous individual entities functioning together to create a larger, more glorious whole. In Section 28 of "Song of Myself ," the speaker observes those around him as "hardly different from myself." There are two things to call attention to here. First, the most relevant relationship between the speaker and...

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