[Home]Walt Whitman

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Walt Whitman (1819-1892), for many the quintessential New York and by analogy American poet, relied on creative repitition in consecutive lines for the force of his poetry. His poetry often has a certain hypnotic quality that inspires as it informs. This quality can be traced indirectly through religious or quasi religious speech and writings such as the [Harlem Renaissance]? poet [James Weldon Johnson]?.

Whitman's break with the past made his poetry a model for the French symbolists? (who in turn influenced the surrealists?) and "modern" poets such as Pound, Eliot?, and Auden?. To get a flavor of this power, consider and read aloud these lines from "Leaves of Grass" (1855) (his most famous poem):

I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine,
I too walked the streets of Manhattan island, and bathed in the waters around it
I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me,
In the day, among crowds of people, sometimes they came upon me,
In my walks home late at night, or as I lay in my bed, they came upon me,
I too had been struck from the float forever held in solution,
I too had received identity by my body,
That I was, I knew was of my body - and what I should be, I knew I should be of my body.

See the brief essay on Whitman by Galway Kinnell in "Poetry Speaks" (Sourcebooks 2001), which also has on CD what claims to be a live recording of Whitman reading a few lines.


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Last edited November 13, 2001 2:25 am by Red Bowen (diff)