Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

Walter "Walt" Whitman (May 31, 1819 – March 26, 1892) 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, Franklin Evans (1842). Whitman's major work, Leaves of Grass, was first published in 1855 with his own money. The work was an attempt at reaching out to the common person with an American epic. He continued expanding and revising it until his death in 1892. After a stroke towards the end of his life, he moved to Camden, New Jersey, where his health further declined. He died at age 72 and his funeral became a public spectacle.

Whitman's sexuality is often discussed alongside his poetry. Though biographers continue to debate his sexuality, he is usually described as either homosexual or bisexual in his feelings and attractions. However, there is disagreement among biographers as to whether Whitman had actual sexual experiences with men. Whitman was concerned with politics throughout his life. He supported the Wilmot Proviso and opposed the extension of slavery generally. His poetry presented an egalitarian view of the races, and at one point he called for the abolition of slavery, but later he saw the abolitionist movement as a threat to democracy.

Read more about Walt WhitmanWriting, Legacy and Influence, Works

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Famous quotes by walt whitman:

    I see before me now a traveling army halting,
    Below a fertile valley spread, with barns and the orchards of summer,
    Behind, the terraced sides of a mountain, abrupt, in places rising high,
    Walt Whitman (1819–1892)

    In the middle of the next century, when the literary establishment will reflect the multicultural makeup of this country and not be dominated by assimiliationists with similar tastes, from similar backgrounds, and of similar pretensions, Langston Hughes will be to the twentieth century what Walt Whitman was to the nineteenth.
    Ishmael Reed (b. 1938)

    How beggarly appear arguments before a defiant deed!
    Walt Whitman (1819–1892)

    They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
    They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
    They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
    Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
    Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago.
    Walt Whitman (1819–1892)

    What a devil art thou, Poverty! How many desires—how many aspirations after goodness and truth—how many noble thoughts, loving wishes toward our fellows, beautiful imaginings thou hast crushed under thy heel, without remorse or pause!
    Walt Whitman (1819–1892)