American History

BARBARIC YAWPERY BUT IN A GOOD WAY

an obscure 37-year-old Brooklyn newspaperman named Walt Whitman self-published a book of 12 lengthy, untitled, unrhymed poems. He called the volume . Few people noticed; fewer cared. But that September printed a long essay lauding Whitman. “An American bard at last!” the article began, unleashing a torrent of over-the-top praise. “Assuming to himself all the attributes of the country, steps Walt Whitman into literature,” the reviewer effused. “No sniveler or tea-drinking poet, no puny clawback or prude is Walt Whitman. He will bring poems fit to fill the days and nights—fit for men and women with the attributes of throbbing blood and flesh…”

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