To begin, I love this particular series - the American poets Project. The books, around 25 to 30 in number so far, cover a wide range of American poets; some well know, others not so well known. The books are extremely inexpensive but well made and make some wonderful poetry available to all.
This is a select collections of poems by Walt Whitman (I know, I state the obvious) and I must say that it is a nice introductory selection. The reader upon completion will be exposed to Whitman's wide range and come away with a good feeling and a nice start of further reading of this amazing poet.
The collected works here are great. I have no problems with the selections what so ever. Now one of the strengths of this series is that the publishers have chosen some of our leading critics, academics and poets to write an introduction to each book in the series. I have learned much from these introductions in just about all the offerings so far.
Alas, I must tell you that I was much less than satisfied with the particular introduction to the work being reviewed here. The publishers, for reasons known only to themselves, chose Harold Bloom. I fully admit that this is a case of personal preference on my part and that I respect professor Bloom's intellect, education and station in life fully. He is a bit of a genius and certainly one of the leading critics with us today. My problem lies in that I cannot stand his writing. To be more specific, I simply cannot understand a word the man puts to paper! He absolutely grates on my nerves.
I suffered through Bloom's "The Western Cannon," twice, as a matter of fact - thank you very much, and came out of the experience learning absolutely nothing. Bloom writes so far over my head that he might as well be writing in a foreign language I know nothing of. His obscure literary references go on and on to the point that I am not at all sure he himself knows what he is saying. Pretentious and arrogant and too quick to bash so many contemporary authors, Boom rather give be a headache. I made some notes on his introduction to this small collection, and conservatively figure I would have to read solidly for at least ten years before I became even vaguely familiar with the works and poets he references. Even then, I doubt seriously if I would understand enough of these works to make heads or tales of what Bloom writes.
Now this is a pity. As I said, I have no doubt that Bloom is a very well educated man and is certainly due respect. I hold those that understand his babblings in absolute awe, and I must admit, intellectually envy. The problem is, that as brilliant as Bloom may be, he is simply incapable of transferring his vast literary knowledge on to lesser people. These little books are nice collections; sort of introductions for the common reader. If the information provided by the author is incomprehensible, then it is useless information. I was able to understand and relate to about five percent of the information written here and it was wonderful information. Alas, the other 95 percent was wasted paper and would have been put to better use in recording more of Whitman's work. I suppose that for those that have graduated from Yale, Harvard or any of the other fine schools our country has to offer, and if they have advanced degrees in American and European Literature, then Bloom's pontifications may be of some use. Not so with me. I never had the opportunity nor the inclination to do so. That does not mean I do not love and, in my own little way, appreciate good poetry. But hey, that is just me.
Sorry Bloom; as a card carrying member of the unwashed, semi-literate masses, you leave me cold.
Other than that, I must give this work five stars...hey, its Whitman!