How Did Walt Whitman Change Poetry

Early Influences On Whitman’s Writing

Walt Whitman was born in1819, a contemporary of fellow poets Emily Dickenson and R.W. Emerson, and had been writing poetry since his early twenties. Whitman drew inspiration from various literary sources, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay on self-reliance, and the works of William Wordsworth. He also developed a strong admiration for Shakespeare, Byron, and Homer. Due to his family’s economics, Whitman did not receive an extensive formal education, but rather gained knowledge from what he read and studied independently. His life presented many challenges, such as bouts of poverty, poor health, and bouts of unsuccessful attempts ofmaking a living. All of these factors, combined with a deep sense of social consciousness, influenced his outlook on life.

The Nature and Impact of Whitman’s Poetry

Whitman’s style of poetry was a dramatic departure from the standards of the time. He discarded all traditional poetic conventions, such as meter and rhyme. Whitman’s verse was often written in long lines, often spanning several pages. His extravagant use of language and imagery was a considerable departure from the traditional formalism of the day. This break from conventional writing mode either stimulated or repelled his readers, leading to mixed reactions from the public. In some ways, Whitman was seen as rebel and a visionary, whose writing pushed poetic forms to new boundaries. In other ways, he was seen as just another hack, whose lack of structure set him apart from other poets of the day.

Whitman’s Use of Language

The language Whitman used in his poems was also a considerable change from traditional poetic conventions. He regularly employed unconventional language, including slang, and language more associated with the common man, than with the traditional poetry. His work also had a much broader range of references to popular culture than what was typically accepted. He wrote of common day events, and normalized their experiences in his language. This not only served to make the poems more accessible, but also worked to challenge the status-quo of existing social hierarchies and conventions.

A Reflection of Life in 19th Century America

Whitman’s poems were a reflection of life in 19th century America. He wrote of the inequalities and injustices that were so often ignored. By looking at lives of generally ignored people, such as factory workers and common laborers, he brings to light their experiences and hardships. Through his writing, he gave a voice to those otherwise unheard of in poetry. He also encouraged people to look beyond material goods and to focus on what really matters in life. He did this in the hope of inspiring people to strive for a better life, something that was greatly needed in 19th century America.

A Move Toward Modernist Writing

Whitman’s experimental writing is considered to be forerunner of modernist poetry. He led the way for writers such as Ezra Pound and TS Eliot, who also pushed literary boundaries and experimented with new forms of language and expression. His ability to capture his reader’s attention through vivid imagery and uncommon language set a new standard for poets of the day, and laid the foundation for the modernist movement.

Whitman’s Legacy

It is widely accepted that Whitman’s poetry revolutionized American literature, and ushered in a new era of writing. He provided a voice for those neglected in society and his work inspires readers to this day. His use of language and imagery remain to be some of the most influential and revolutionary of modern times.

Whitman’s Influence On Later Poets

Whitman’s influence on modern American poetry was far reaching. Poets such as William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg and Robert Frost took much of their inspiration from Whitman. All three praised Whitman for his faithful representation of the American spirit, as seen in his use of language and imagery. These and many other poets succeeded Whitman in his legacy.

Democratization of Poetry

Whitman’s writing opened up the creative element of literature and made it accessible to a wider audience. This democratization of poetry allowed readers to interpret the words of Whitman and create their own meanings, regardless of social or class structure. Through the democratization of poetry, Whitman was able to cultivate a deep appreciation and understanding of the human condition, something which had not been seen before in literary works.

Analysis of Whitman’s Poetry

The analysis of Whitman’s poetry is complex, as he wrote extensively on a variety of subjects, often in an experimental and lyrical way. His style of writing suggests a deep respect and empathy for individuals who were marginalized and disenfranchised in society, offering the reader a unique insight into human suffering and the human condition. This type of writing, often referred to as ‘humanism’, has remained influential in many forms of poetry today.

Conclusion of Whitman’s Poetry Legacy

The legacy of Walt Whitman is one of the most influential of modern writers. He revolutionized the writing of poetry by challenging convention and pushing the boundaries of language and imagery. He also provided an important voice to the disenfranchised, and gave representation to many of society’s neglected individuals. His works remain inspirational to readers even today, and his influence continues to shape American literature.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

Leave a Comment