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Walt Whitman Walt Whitman 1819-1892 1819-1892 “The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he absorbed it.” -1855 preface to Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman 1819-1892

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Walt Whitman 1819-1892. “The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he absorbed it.” -1855 preface to Leaves of Grass. Whitman’s Birthplace. Early Years. Parents gave him an upbringing based loosely on Quaker values Only 5-6 years of formal schooling - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

Text of Walt Whitman 1819-1892

  • Walt Whitman 1819-1892The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he absorbed it. -1855 preface to Leaves of Grass

  • Whitmans Birthplace

  • Early YearsParents gave him an upbringing based loosely on Quaker valuesOnly 5-6 years of formal schoolingVoracious readerWorked as a printer, teacher, journalist, building contractor, and editorVolunteer nurse and correspondent for the Civil War

  • Walt WhitmanMixed reaction to his poetryEmerson/Lincoln loved itWhittier hated itthrew it in the fireMedic during the Civil WarAnti-slavery; Free SoilerThemes: Nature, Democracy, Common ManIntroduced Free Verse to America

  • 1840s

  • Purpose of His PoetryTo make an attempt to put a Person, a human being (myself in the latter half of the 19th century, in America) freely, fully, and truly on record.To show his appreciation for the linkage between the body and the soul and the communion that can come through physical contact.

  • 1850s1855-self-published first edition of Leaves of Grass at age 36; now considered one of the greatest collections of poetry ever written. Reaction against European standards, constraints of Romanticism and the classicsBook was celebrated by few, dismissed by most as barbarism, filth, exotic and vulgar language, and gross yet elevated writingRadically new style of writingMade his own rhythmsCreated his own mythic worldFree-verse unorthodoxies

  • His formless, free verse departed from poetic convention with:

    Unique incantations and boasts of individualityCelebration of sexualityCommonplace experience of the worker, common manEcstatic perceptions of humans and nature (united and divine)Glorified all humanity and human qualities including: sex, womanhood, maternity, bodily functions, etc.Disorganized and raw experiences

  • 1860sIn his lifetime, read mostly by literary enthusiasts and intellectuals. He fell short of his goal of being the poet of the masses.

  • 1870sLeaves of Grass went through about five editions (1871) at which time he received increasing critical recognition in England and America. Readers seemed more accustomed to him.

  • 1880sConsidered the bard of democracyPoetry centered on ideas of democracy, equality and brotherhood.Public poet who celebrated democratic men and women en-masse.Urgent desire to incorporate the entire American experience into his life and poetryWanted to create a new Frontier voice, vigorous and free, that represented AmericaCelebrated the selfof the poet in everyman, in the worker, in the individual

  • Unique Structure

    Avoided rhyme schemes, but used meter in masterful and innovative ways, often to mimic natural speechRepetitionParallelismCatalogs (listings)AlliterationOnomatopoeiaImagery

  • StructureFrequently, the purpose of the structure was to reflect his democratic ideals:Ex. Listing items without imposing a hierarchyUniqueness of the individualdemocracy does not mean sameness

  • PerceptionPerception more than analysis was the basis for his poetryUsed few metaphors or symbolic language

  • AnecdotesTransmitted a story to give the readers a sympathetic experience which would allow them to incorporate the anecdote into their own history.

  • Obscure, Foreign, Invented WordsSignified his status as an individualDifficulty of the language mirrors the necessary imperfection of connections between individuals: no matter how hard we try, we can never completely understand each other.

  • Final ThoughtA truly democratic poetry, for Whitman, is one that, using a common language, is able to cross the gap between the self and another individual, to effect a sympathetic exchange of experiences.

  • 1890s

    Required Reading: I Hear America Singing (TP-CASTT)I Sit and Look Out (TP-CASTT)Oh Captain! My Captain!A Noiseless Patient SpiderOut of the Cradle, Endlessly Rocking (TP-CASTT)

  • I Hear America SingingI hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,The carpenter singing him as he measures his plank or beam,The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deck-hand singing on the steamboat deck,The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,The wood-cutters song, the ploughboys on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,The day what belongs to the dayat night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.