This was my first time reading Leaves of Grass. I’ve heard famous quotes from it (“I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world“) and have heard it referenced my entire life, but this was my first foray into reading it.
Two things stuck out to me. The first was the unabashed praise of America. It was almost uncomfortable at times. Can you imagine an artist these days (a famous novelist, rapper, or painter) taking a large part of a book to extol the virtures of the United States? If an actor or actress did that on Twitter in 2017, they’d be viewed as alt-right.
The second thing that stuck out to me was the appreciation of all things. This theme flows out of this book. Common things I daily overlook are praised like they are rare jewels. Whitman’s childlike joy and curiosity in the small and large, the weak and strong, the low and great was refreshing. The love of America was refreshing. The call to be present in both the small and large was refreshing.
I’ve never been one to seek out poetry or prose, and Leaves of Grass is just that. It had a feel much more similar to Maxims and Reflections by Goethe than it did to Walden (Whitman and Thoreau were contemporaries). Because of the style, I was not a huge fan of this book. Though hard to compare, if I had to choose between Walden and Leaves of Grass, I’d both recommend and choose Walden. Despite my lack of enjoyment of this book, it had some great points and great lessons.