Born in 1875, the great German lyric poet Rainer Maria Rilke published his first collection of poems in 1898 and went on to become renowned for his delicate depiction of the workings of the human heart. Drawn by some sympathetic note in his poems, young people often wrote to Rilke with their problems and hopes. From 1903 to 1908 Rilke wrote a series of remarkable responses to a young, would-be poet on poetry and on surviving as a sensitive observer in a harsh world. Those letters, still a fresh source of inspiration and insight, are accompanied here by a chronicle of Rilke's life that shows what he was experiencing in his own relationship to life and work when he wrote them.
In 1855 Walt Whitman published his first collection of poetry, Leaves of Grass. The volume received great praise from leading Transcendentalist poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. This encouraged what would become a lifelong project as Whitman expanded and rewrote the volume until his death in 1892. Whitman's innovative use of free verse and the quotidian achieved his aim of reaching out to the everyday American. This edition, based on the earliest published version of 1855, features Whitman's most famous poem 'Song of Myself', an American epic inspired by his personal experiences.