Author(s): Walt Whitman
Specimen Days and Collect first appeared in 1882 but remains greatly underappreciated, despite giving us significant insight into Whitman?s life and old age. Composed in 1881 largely out of notes, sketches and essays written at various stages of the poet's life from the Civil War on, it is the closest thing to a conventional autobiography Whitman ever published.
The largest and arguably the most important work of Whitman's old age, the book deserves attention as more than a source of information or for its moving descriptions of the poet's experiences in the Civil War.
WALT WHITMAN (1819-1892), perhaps the most influential poet in American history, was born on Long Island but raised in Brooklyn, New York. Serving at various times as a printer's devil, journeyman compositor, itinerant schoolteacher, newspaper editor, and unofficial nurse to Northern and Southern soldiers during the Civil War, he acquired a broad view of American life, central to his identity as a poet. His "American epic" "Leaves of Grass"--though initially controversial for its frank depiction of sexuality--earned him the title of the father of free verse. He continued to edit and reprint "Leaves of Grass" up until his death, in addition to writing new works of poetry and "Democratic Vistas," a work of comparative politics. LESLIE JAMISON is the author of an essay collection, "The Empathy Exams," winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize. Her first novel, "The Gin Closet," was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction; and her essays and stories have been published in numerous publications, including "Harper's," "The Oxford American," " A Public Space," and "The Believer."