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Walt Whitman

(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892 / New York / United States)

Walt Whitman
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Walter "Walt" was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse. His work was very controversial in its time, particularly his poetry collection Leaves of Grass, which was described as obscene for its overt sexuality.

Born on Long Island, Whitman worked as a journalist, a teacher, a government clerk, and – in addition to publishing his poetry – was a volunteer nurse during the American Civil War. Early in his career, he also produced a temperance novel, ... more »

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Quotations

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  • ''Rugged, mountainous, volcanic, he was himself more a French revolution than any of his volumes.''
    Walt Whitman (1819-1892), U.S. poet. Specimen Days (Feb. 10, 1881).
  • ''I will put in my poems, that with you is heroism, upon land and sea—And
    I will report all heroism from an American point of view.''
    Walt Whitman (1819-1892), U.S. poet. Starting From Paumanok, sct. 7.
  • ''And I will show that nothing can happen more beautiful than death.''
    Walt Whitman (1819-1892), U.S. poet. Starting From Paumanok, sct. 13.
  • ''I never see that man without feeling that he is one to become personally attach'd to, for his combination of purest, heartiest tenderness, and native western form of manliness.''
    Walt Whitman (1819-1892), U.S. poet. "The Inauguration," March 4, 1865, Specimen Days and Collect (1882).
  • ''The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.''
    Walt Whitman (1819-1892), U.S. poet. Leaves of Grass, preface (1855).
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Comments about Walt Whitman

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  • Rookie - 0 Points Grace Moneymaker (12/23/2014 5:50:00 PM)

    My mom recently gave me Leaves of Grass to help with my Writer's Block and, being a curious young poet, I sat down and read the poems in the book. Within the first five minutes I got an idea for my short poem The Troubles of Midnight that I had been working on before. The book itself is very inspirational and despite my little sister's hate for poetry, especially mine, I will continue to write.

  • Freshman - 2,149 Points Wahab Abdul (12/12/2013 3:49:00 AM)

    In support of the idea of the increasing split between private and public in Whitman's works in the post-war years, as Whitman the lover of men gives way to the iconography of the good gray poet, many emphasize the changes that Whitman made in his Calamus poems after he was fired from his job at the Department of the Interior for moral turpitude. But here again, a close study of the changes that Whitman made in future editions of Leaves of Grass reveals no clear pattern of suppressing or even toning down his love poems to men. In fact, Whitman's decision to delete three poems from ‘Calamus’—‘Who Is Now Reading This? , ’ ‘I Thought That Knowledge Alone Would Suffice, ’ and ‘Hours Continuing Long’—suggests that he sought not to tone down or suppress his expression of manly love but rather to suppress the more negative dimensions of his love for men and to blur the distinction between public poet and private lover he set forth in ’Thought That Knowledge Alone Would Suffice.’

  • Rookie Rachel Gaddi (6/21/2013 2:32:00 PM)

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  • Rookie Yacov Mitchenko (10/12/2012 6:34:00 AM)

    The case of Whitman is a complex one. He's among my favorites, yet Kevin Straw has a point: Whitman's major weakness is long-windedness. I have no doubt that his Song of Myself could have been strengthened by a heavy editorial pen. In this regard, I prefer Dickinson because she understood the power of silence and restraint. Yet at his strongest, Whitman displays symphonic exuberance, and he's unquestionably an innovator, which is why the aforementioned weakness can be forgiven. Innovators make a lot of mistakes, and the refiners, though they might produce more polished poems, are less original (generally) . For example, Yeats is more satisfying than Whitman in that his better poems are polished and condensed, but Whitman is still more original.

  • Rookie Ryan Walker (8/17/2012 1:06:00 AM)

    Song of Myself is easily THE, American Epic, (along with Moby Dick,) that expresses what a generation felt during that period. Reading it is an exploration into both his world, and your own. It is easily of one of the poems that any avid reader of poetry should read.

  • Rookie Kevin Straw (4/11/2012 8:29:00 PM)

    O what a wordy wordless Whitman. If only he would shut up at the right moment!

    I note the comments have been removed from the poems of the day, such is the respect the site creators have for their contributors.

  • Rookie Caneesha Bartlett (4/8/2012 4:53:00 PM)

    I will always love his beauty and such truthful poetry

  • Rookie Aj Meunier (3/22/2012 10:54:00 PM)

    i love witman hes my fave poet

  • Rookie Silviu Ciocan (1/8/2010 1:46:00 AM)

    ...and Borges read and like very much Whitman.

  • Rookie - 172 Points Poet Hunter (7/6/2009 12:19:00 AM)

    'For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you' - Walt Whitman was way ahead of his time when he wrote 'Leaves of Grass' and it seems, for some, he is still way ahead of the times. Great poet! !

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