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“I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of Leaves of Grass. I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit & wisdom that America has yet contributed. I am very happy in reading it, as great power makes us happy.” No, this is not a note from Monica to Bill, but one from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Walt Whitman, who liked it so much he published it in Horace Greeley’s Herald-Tribune—without Emerson’s permission—and reprinted it the second edition of Leaves of Grass. The men’s lifelong—and often stormy—friendship is revealed as never before in literary scholar Jerome Loving’s Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself, the first full-length critical biography of the poet to be published in almost a half-century. Detailing Whitman’s pivotal Civil War experiences and using previously unknown archival material—particularly Whitman’s newspaper pieces—Loving gives us the most complete portrait of the bard that is likely to appear, at least until the next generation. Loving reads from his 568-page tome at 6 p.m. Monday, June 21, at the Ripley Center Lecture Hall, 1100 Jefferson Drive SW, $13, for reservations call (202) 357-3030; at noon Tuesday, June 22, at the National Archives, Room 105, 7th & Pennsylvania Ave. NW, free, (202) 208-7345; and at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 22, at Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, free, (202) 364-1919. (Eddie Dean)