On This Day: Leaves of Grass Published

Walt Whitman, known as the father of American poetry, published his book of poems Leaves of Grass in 1855. Here are some facts about the reception he received.

Book Culture Classics On This Day

Walt Whitman is known as the father of American poetry. His book of poems Leaves of Grass was first published in 1855.



Some things you might not know about this book of poems are:

  • Whitman was heavily criticized for it because of how sensual it was. In fact, the poems, though speaking of romance, are also laced with sexual innuendos that are not hard to pick up on.

  • It has obvious homoerotic overtones to the point that scholars are still trying to decide if Whitman was bisexual or gay.

  • It began a discourse on sexuality in mainstream media.




  • He lost his job in 1865, as a clerk at the Department of the Interior because it offended the Secretary of the Interior James Harlan.

  • The book was legally banned in Boston in the 1880s and informally banned everywhere else.

  • All libraries except for the Library Company of Philadelphia refused to buy the book.

  • He continued to expand on this book over four decades so the initial piece containing just 12 poems, turned into a tome containing over 400 loosely connected poems.

Go celebrate Leaves of Grass by reading Song of Myself, his most “obscene” poem in the first version of the book.