Walt Whitman created a daringly new kind of poetry that became a major force in world literature. 'Leaves of grass' is his one book. First published in 1855 with only twelve poems, it was greeted by Ralph Waldo Emerson as 'the wonderful gift . . . the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed'. Over the course of Whitman's life, the book reappeared in many versions, expanded and transformed as the author's experiences and the nation's history changed and grew. Whitman's ambition was to create something uniquely American. His poems have been woven into the very fabric of the American character. From his masterpieces 'When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd' and 'Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking' to the joyous freedom of 'Song of Myself', 'I Sing the Body Electric', and 'Song of the Open Road', Whitman's work lives on, an inspiration to the poets of later generations.