Walt Whitman Selected Poems 1855-1892

Walt Whitman; Edited by Gary Schmidgall

Stonewall Inn Editions



Trade Paperback

560 Pages



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Schmidgall, author of Walt Whitman: A Gay Life and several other studies, delivers an edition of Whitman that, at long last, lives up to the poet's initial intentions. This new volume presents over 200 poems in their original form and chronology, thereby retrieving the candor and exuberance Whitman displayed in the creative and sexual prime of his life. Walt Whitman: Selected Poems 1855-1892 also includes the poet's major prose discussions of his verse, his four elegies for Lincoln, his earliest poems, and many contemporary—and sometimes blistering—reviews of his fearless, explicit, and uncompromised work.


Praise for Walt Whitman

"Schmidgall's thrilling new edition of Whitman restores the poet's true voice—at once radical and intimate, tender and triumphant. This book vividly reminds us that Whitman's poems are the soul's-cry and heart's-blood of the American imagination."—J. D. McClatchy

"Schmidgall has followed his biography [of the poet] with a Selected Poems, and the two books together represent an enormous contribution, an outpouring of Whitman interpretation and scholarship that is quite extraordinary . . . His Selected Poems is a feast of Whitmania . . . [We scholars and students] need the earlier versions, written and arranged by the audacious younger Whitman, the one with the power to dazzle and amaze. Gary Schmidgall has done a marvelous job and a great service in presenting them."—Howard Nelson, The Hollins Critic (Hollins University, Virginia)

"Brilliantly discerning . . . The best single volume [of Whitman] I have ever seen . . . Bold, generous, and unexpurgated."—Dana Gioia

"An engaging approach [with] a fine introduction."—M. Jimmie Killingsworth, American Literary Scholarship: An Annual 1999

"Finally, an edition of Whitman that doesn't overwhelm with too much material or starve with too little. Perfect for the classroom. . . . [Offers] the best poems in their original form, when they were still closest to Whitman's inspiration."—Ed Folsom, editor of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Walt Whitman; Edited by Gary Schmidgall

  • Gary Schmidgall is the author of several studies of Shakespeare and biographies of Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman. He has been a fellow of the American Council of Learned Socities and the Mellon and Guggenheim Foundations.

    Walt Whitman (1819-1892) grew up in Brooklyn and Long Island, working initially as a teacher and later (throughout the New York City area, and briefly in New Orleans) as a journalist and newspaper editor. In 1855, the self-published first edition of his masterpiece, Leaves of Grass, appeared. Consisting of twelve untitled poems and a preface, it was too frank, unconventional, or shocking for most readers, receiving little attention in general, yet it was hailed by Ralph Waldo Emerson as "the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed." This book would become the poet's "life comfort" and "reson-for-being"—and his life's endeavor. To that end, Whitman prepared eight other published editions of Leaves of Grass over the next thirty-five years, always adding new poems and extensively changing those that had already appeared. The final (or "death-bed") edition of Leaves of Grass contained nearly four hundred poems.

    At the outbreak of the Civil War, Whitman worked as a freelance journalist and frequently visited wounded soldiers at New York-area hospitals. In December of 1862, he went to Washington, D.C., to care for his brother, who had likewise been wounded. Profoundly moved by the suffering of the many wounded in Washington, Whitman decided to stay and work in the hospitals. He remained in the nation's capitol for eleven years, always writing and earning a modest income at a variety of jobs (including a short stint as a clerk for the Department of the Interior).

    After decades of literary neglect, Whitman came to be revered a America's "good gray poet" in his later years; he was a nineteenth-century celebrity of sorts, a national treasure. (This reputation has only increased in the century since his death.) Indeed, Whitman's final years brought many noted visitors and admirers (Oscar Wilde, Thomas Eakins, and the like) to his home in Camden, New Jersey. His prose works include Democratic Vistas and Specimen Days.