Born on Long Island in 1819, Walt Whitman is considered one of the first great, quintessentially American poets. So deep was his appeal, that William Sloane Kennedy, in a fit of adoration said "people will be celebrating the birth of Walt Whitman as they are now the birth of Christ." The first edition of Leaves of Grass, Whitman's most famous work, contained just 12 poems. It was first published in 1855, to great acclaim and controversy. Whitman was both beloved and censured for his frank and loving acknowledgement of the human body, life, death and sexuality. "Passage to India" was included with 352 others poems in the final, and much re-worked, edition of Leaves of Grass. Sections of Whitman's poem "Passage to India" are read in this video by award winning playwright Tony Kushner. Of Whitman's work Kushner once said, "I think it's aesthetically, immensely sophisticated and complicated, in terms of just poetic sound."
To read this and other poems by Walt Whitman, as well as biographical information about the poet, please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.