Walt Whitman

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Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman was born to a family of nine children in Brooklyn on May 31, 1819 in Long Island, New York. Walt was mostly self educated, as he was pulled out of school to help support he family. At a young age, Whitman loved reading, and when he was not working as a printer for the family, he would acquaint himself with Dantes, Shakespeare, and other great writers. In 1841, Whitman began his career in journalism until 1848, when Whitman went to New Orleans. There he had his first taste of the cruelty of the slave trade, which, when Whitman came back to Brooklyn, spurred him to create the Brooklyn Freeman. This in turn spurred him to create his first collection of poetry.

Leaves of Grass

May 31, 1819- Birth1855 - Publication of Leaves of Grass1862 - Whitman Goes to Washington1882 - Suffers StrokeMarch 26, 1892 - Death

In 1855, Whitman published his first collection of poems, Leaves of Grass. This book was self published and contained a mere 12 untitled poems. In later years the book would be published several times, each with more poems than the last. In the year Whitman published this book, he sent a copy to the famous poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson was very intrigued by Whitman's style, as rather than Whtitman's poems having a standard meter, it was written in free verse. Emerson wrote to Whitman praising his poetry. Emerson even stated that Whitman's poetry was “the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed.” However, not only did the book recieve praise, it also recieved criticism. When Whitman wrote Leaves of Gras, slavery was in place and women didn't have as many rights as men. Whitman openly stated his opinions about these topics in his poems, and he was very frank when it came to discussing these topics, which upset people. Also, people at the time did not like how Whitman wrote in free verse, as they were used to sonnets and other forms of what one may call "organized" poetry. But even so, today Leaves of Grass is considered a great work of poetry.

Lasting Impact

Whitman is most famous for his poems in his book Leaves of Grass. Whitman is also recognized for revolutionizing American poetry, as rather than follow the tradition forms of poetry such as sonnets and rhymes, he would write free verse on whatever he thought, including the controversial topics of the time on slavery and women's suffrage.

Civil War and Later Years

Link to Citations Document:https://docs.google.com/a/culverstudents.net/document/d/1bwuI2_tfWib8bW4y2jeWsUdrL9bSkg7kXecOSbAqfP8/edit

Walt Whitman

Early Life


Whitman Video

In 1861, the American Civil War broke out. In 1862, Whitman traveled to Washington D.C. and stayed there to treat his wounded brother, who served in the Union Army, along with many other soldiers. While in D.C. Whitman found a job as a clerk for the Department of Interior. It was during this time in Washington D.C. when Whitman was inspired by the soldiers' stories in war. This spurred Whitman to write another collection of poems, Drum-Taps, based on the stories of the soldiers he treated. Even after the war ended he continued to visit soldiers in Washington D.C. Then in 1873 Whitman suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. He returned to Camden, New Jersey, to live with his brother until Whitman bought his own house in 1882. Whitman resided in Camden for the rest of his life, where for the last 20 years of his life he tinkered around with his book Leaves of Grass. When Whitman released his seventh and final version of it, it had a total of more than 300 poems. Then on March 26, 1892, Whitman died in his home.

“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.” - Walt Whitman


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