Walt Whitman was the first major poet to create a truly American vision and style. His extraordinary example gave American verse much of its subsequent character and diction. Rejecting traditional constraints of form and subject matter, Whitman considered democracy itself appropriate grist for his own poetic mill, inventing a radically different sort of free verse to express what he had to say.
Who stole Whitman's butterfly? We may never know, but you can view the famous cardboard butterfly and four of Whitman's notebooks (all returned a half century after they disappeared from the Library of Congress) at the Library's "Poet at Work" site.
Read Leaves of Grass, other poems, prose works, and quotations at Columbia University's Bartleby Archive.
Study Whitman in an ultra-modern hypermedia environment. This site provides digitized images of original documents, transcriptions of the documents, and an elaborate body of introductions, commentaries, and other material useful in interpreting Whitman's works.
"It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself." Trace the growth of Leaves of Grass from the first edition of 1855 to the "Deathbed Edition" of 1891-92 at the University of South Carolina's Whitman site.