"Not to apprehend Leaves of Grass
as a man speaking is to miss its purport."
~Bliss Parry, 1908
PURE GRASS is a dramatic program created by Bruce Noll. The program is composed entirely of excerpts from Whitman's Leaves of Grass and weaves together many of the poet's themes. Since the first performance in 1970, PURE GRASS has undergone many changes but Noll always strives to represent the spirit of Walt Whitman in his oral interpretation of this timeless work of literature.
When Walt Whitman entered the literary scene in 1855 with his first edition of Leaves of Grass, his contemporaries considered the book to be curious, strange and even decadent. Over the decades and through eight more editions of Leaves, Whitman became well-respected in Europe but only gradually achieved recognition as a poet in his own country. Today the poetic text stands as a masterpiece of world literature. Leaves of Grass remains revolutionary for the way it liberates the spirits of its readers and listeners. In our fast-paced digitized world, Whitman's words sing out their melodies as purely today as they did nearly 150 years ago. They contain truths and insights for people in all times. Although societies, governments and lifestyles change, what people on earth are truly concerned about tie them together from one generation to another. Whitman understood this and that's in part why his poetry is so magically alive for us today.
"Early in his career, poet Walt Whitman fancied he would become a "wander-teacher, a robust living treat" crisscrossing America and electrifying audiences with his message. This vision was finally incarnated not by Whitman himself but by Bruce Noll and his wonderful performance of PURE GRASS. "
Dr. Donald Kummings, Co-editor of Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (1999)