Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Reviews of Whitman.

"'Leaves of Grass'—An Extraordinary Book." The Brooklyn Daily Eagle 15 (15 September 1855)

The writer of this short piece on Leaves of Grass lends us a sense of the artistic context Whitman resides in, and by extension the innovation that the poem exhibits. He writes, "It is one of the strangest compounds," continuing, "it is not an epic nor an ode, nor a lyric; nor does its verses move with the measured pace of poetical feet—of Iambic, Trochaic or Anapaestic, nor seek the aid of Amphibrach, of dactyl or Spondee, nor of final or cesural pause, except by accident." Ironically, in expressing how pioneering the poem is, the author adopts Whitman's cataloguing technique, suggesting perhaps a level of subconscious influence by the poem. The author's cataloguing also serves to establish how different the poem is; he defines it by what it is not, and in doing so further emphasises the poems individuality. The reviewer is reluctant to reveal whether he actually likes the poem. He seems to fluctuate between approval and disapproval at Walt's pioneering technique, thereby giving the impression that he is somewhat speechless.
What we the contemporary reader can take out of this review is a degree of insight into the context Whitman writes in, and therefore establish both his innovation and influence.

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