Walt Whitman

September 21, 2006


Said to have invented contemporary American literature as a genre
Abandoned the rhythmic and metrical structures of European poetry for expansionist freestyle verse
View that America was destined to reinvent the world as emancipator and liberator of the human spirit
Open homosexual of his time: poetry includes homosexual and homoerotic images: draws the connection between poetry and ejaculation
Early abolitionist
Invented the catalog style of writing: use of listing within poetic form, loosely binds together many different individual things
Tries to reinvent a poetic form that will stay true to his subject matter (primarily Democracy)
Believes in “Adhesive” Democracy and love: is not a ‘melting pot’, America must make room for diversity


I 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 his 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 deckhand singing on the steamboat deck, / The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands, / The wood-cutter’s song, the phoughboy’s on his way in the morning, 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 day- at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly, / Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

-I Hear America Singing (in whole)

Sexual imagery at the end
Free verse: radical for this time period
Focuses on working class
Themes of sense and body: Whitman’s poetry is “in the moment”

I celebrate myself, and sing myself, / And what I assume you shall assume, / For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul, / I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air, / Born here fo parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same, / I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin, / Hoping to cease not till death.
Creeds and schools in abeyance, / Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten, / I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard, / Nature without check with original energy.

Urge and urge and urge, / Always the procreant urge of the world.

-Song of Myself

Whitman has no tolerance for Dogma
Believes in the connection between the individual and the mass


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