Introduction to Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman was an American poet, essayist, journalist and humanist. He was one of the most influential poets of the 19th century and is regarded as one of the founders of modern American literature.
Whitman was born on Long Island, New York in 1819 and he was the second of nine children. His father, Walter, was a carpenter and carpenter’s son and his mother, Louisa, was a Quaker. He received little formal education, attending school until the age of 11. After this, Whitman was largely self-educated. He was a voracious reader, reading and studying texts in many genres, including philosophy, theology, medicine, history and science.
Whitman worked as a teacher, a printer, a journalist and a government clerk before entering the literary world. He wrote his first collection of poems, “Leaves of Grass” in 1855, self-publishing it with his own money. It was this book that propelled Whitman to fame and began his career in poetry and literature.
What Did Walt Whitman Write?
Whitman is best known for his collection of poetry, “Leaves of Grass”. This is a collection of twelve poems and three additional uncollected poems. It was first published in 1855 and it was met with both praise and criticism. Many of Whitman’s poems celebrated individualism and the celebration of life, as well as exploring themes, such as democracy, nature, death and love.
Whitman’s work pushed the boundaries of traditional forms of poetry and many of his poems utilized free verses, rather than following the traditional formats. He was a prolific and versatile writer, producing essays, novels, short stories and plays, in addition to his poems.
In addition to his literary works, Whitman was a journalist and a social reformer. He wrote extensively about slavery, the civil rights movement, women’s rights and labor reform. He was a strong advocate for the abolition of slavery and wrote a number of articles and essays on the subject.
The Influence of Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman is widely considered to be one of the most influential American poets of all time. His work had a major influence on other writers and poets, including T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. His poetry has been translated into many languages and he is widely read and studied in the United States and around the world.
Whitman’s work is often praised for its inclusion and celebration of the diversity of American life. He wrote about a range of topics, from the mundane to the spiritual, and his work has been referred to as a “layman’s bible” for his exploration of humanity and the human experience.
Whitman’s exploration of identity, particularly in relation to gender and sexuality, has also been widely praised and he is often considered to be an important figure in the history of LGBT rights. His work also had a major influence on the Beat movement of the 1950s and 60s.
Whitman’s Final Years
In 1873, Whitman suffered a stroke which left him seriously ill. He was forced to take a break from writing and he returned home to New Jersey to recuperate. While there, he wrote of his sickness in a collection of autobiographical poems, “Specimen Days & Collect”.
Whitman’s health deteriorated in the years that followed and he died in 1892 in Camden, New Jersey. He is buried in the Harleigh Cemetery in Camden, alongside his brother and mother.
Legacy of Walt Whitman
Whitman’s legacy lives on in the form of his writings, which continue to be widely studied and read around the world. He was certainly an influential figure in the history of American literature and his legacy can be seen in works by modern authors such as Allen Ginsberg.
In addition to his literary works, Whitman was also an important social reformer and activist. He was an advocate for free speech and was also a passionate campaigner for civil rights, particularly in relation to women and African Americans.
The influence and impact of Whitman’s work is seen in the work of contemporary poets, scholars, and those fighting for social change. He is remembered as a great American poet and an influential figure in the history of the United States.
Whitman in Popular Culture
In recent years, Whitman’s work has been referenced in various forms of popular culture. His work has been used in films, television shows, and music. Songs have been written inspired by Whitman’s work, and even video games have featured Whitman’s work.
Whitman’s work has had a major impact on popular culture, and his influence can be seen in the works of writers, filmmakers and other artists. His work has been used to explore themes of identity, self-expression, and the beauty of nature, amongst other topics.
The Significance of Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman is remembered as one of the most influential figures in American literature. His poetry and writing had a huge impact on 19th century American culture, and his influence can still be seen in the works of contemporary writers.
From his advocacy for civil rights to his exploration of the human experience, Whitman’s life and work have left a lasting mark on American culture. His work is often referred to as “the US Bible” and his legacy as one of America’s great poets is a testament to his skill and influence in literature.