Walt Whitman

walt whitman “Walt” Whitman (1819 – 1892) was an American poet, essayist and journalist. Whitman fused the poetic traditions of both transcendentalism and realism, with his own unique indomitable spirit. Writing in a new form of free verse, Whitman is one of the most influential modern American poets.

 

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

- Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

Walt Whitman Biography

Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, on the West Hills of Long Island, New York. His mother, Louisa Van Velsor, of Dutch descent and Quaker faith, whom he adored, was barely literate. She never read his poetry, but gave him unconditional love. His father of English lineage, was a carpenter and builder of houses, and a stern disciplinarian. His main claim to fame was his friendship with Tom Paine, whose pamphlet Common Sense (1776), urging the colonists to throw off English domination was in his sparse library. It is doubtful that his father read any of his son’s poetry, or would have understood it if he had. The senior Walt was too burdened with the struggle to support his ever-growing family of nine children, four of whom were handicapped.

Young Walt, the second of nine, was withdrawn from public school at the age of eleven to help support the family. At the age of twelve he started to learn the printer’s trade, and fell in love with the written and printed word. He was mainly self-taught. He read voraciously, and became acquainted with Homer, Dante, Shakespeare and Scott early in life. He knew the Bible thoroughly, and as a God-intoxicated poet, desired to inaugurate a religion uniting all of humanity in bonds of friendship.

Walt Whitman went on to become an innovative school teacher before becoming a full time journalist. He set up a newspaper the “Brooklyn Freeman”. Between 1848 and 1855he published his major work of poetry “Leaves of Grass“. This poetic work deeply impressed Emerson who was full of gratitude for receiving a copy of this monumental work

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Selected Extracts from Walt Whitman

‘All truths wait in all things,
They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,
They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon…’

- Walt Whitman

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I am the poet of the body and I am the poet of the soul…
At another place he sings:
I have said that the soul is not more than the body.

- Walt Whitman

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The soul is always beautiful, it appears more or it appears less,
it comes or it lags behind,
It comes from its embower’d garden
and looks pleasantly on itself and encloses the world…

- Walt Whitman

 

Selected Poems by Walt Whitman

Other Whitman Pages

External Links