Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman 1819 – 1892
A New American Poet
Leaves of Grass
A spiritual autobiography
 Expanded and revised 9 times throughout
Whitman’s life
 It “tells the story of an enchanted observer
who says who he is at every opportunity and
claims what he loves by naming it.”
 “this is no book/Who touches this touches a
man” (Evler 349).
Leaves of Grass
“Too boldly new and
strange to win the
attention of reviews or
readers who had fixed
ideas about poetry”
Wrote Emerson of it, “I
find it the most
extraordinary piece of
wit and
wisdom…”(Evler 349).
Poetic Devices of Whitman
Parallel structure
Anaphora (repetition of
words or phrases at the beginning of
consecutive lines or sentences)
 Informal or slang;
invented words
 Tone
The repetition of the
same or similar
consonant sounds in
words that are close
 It is used to create
musical effects and to
establish mood.
From “Song of Myself
 “I celebrate myself,
and sing myself,
And what I assume
you shall assume,
For every atom
belonging to me as
good belongs to
From “Song of
Myself #1”
 “I loaf and invite
my soul,
I lean and loaf at
my ease observing
a spear of summer
The repetition of
similar vowel
sounds followed
by different
consonant sounds;
especially in words
that are close
Alliteration and Consonance
Alliteration: The repetition of the
same or similar consonant
sounds at the beginning of words
That are close together.
Consonance: The repetition of
like consonant sounds in the
middle and end of words.
Assonance: The repetition of
similar vowel sounds.
Alliteration, Consonance, and
Assonance are used to create
musical effects and to establish
Mood and tone.
From “Song of Myself #1”
by Walt Whitman
“I celebrate myself, and sing
And what I assume you shall
For every atom belonging to me
as good belongs to you.
I loaf and invite my soul,
I lean and loaf at my ease,
observing a spear of summer
The use of language
to evoke a mental
picture or a concrete
sensation of a
person, place, thing,
or idea.
“Alone far in the wilds and
mountains I hunt,
Wandering amazed at
my own lightness and
In the late afternoon
choosing a safe spot to
pass the night,
Kindling a fire and
broiling the fresh-killed
Falling asleep on the
gathered leaves with my
dog and gun by my side.”
Leaves of Grass #10
Simile and Metaphor
Simile: Making a
comparison between
two unlike things
using “like,” “as,” or
Metaphor: Making the
same comparison
without the
by Langston Hughes
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
Giving human
qualities to
animals or
nonliving things
Example: Time stood still.
The car hugged the road.
The use of words whose sound
imitates or suggests its meaning
like buzz, bang, pow, zoom, clomp,
This form of imagery appeals to
the sense of hearing.
“The runaway slave
came to my house and
stopp’d outside,/ I heard
his motions crackling the
twigs of the woodpile…”
A list of people, things, or
Whitman uses long, descriptive
lists to express “the voice of
“I hear America singing, the
varied carols I hear,/ Those of
mechanics…The carpenter
singing…The mason
singing…The boatman
singing…The wood-cutter’s
It’s All in the Way It’s Written
Parallel Structure: The repetition of
words or phrases that have similar
grammatical structure
 From “Song of Myself #33”
 “…I am the hounded slave, I wince at the
bite of the dogs,…
I clutch the rails of the fence, my gore
Make It Sound Like Music
Cadence: The natural, rhythmic rise and
fall of language as it is normally spoken. It
is not written to a particular, predictable
meter of language.
 Free Verse: Poetry that does not conform
to a regular meter or rhyme scheme.
 Walt Whitman was the first American
poet to use free verse.
A Style All His Own
Tone: A writer’s attitude toward a
given subject. Tone is
determined through a study of
words and descriptions used by
the author.
Tone is dependent upon diction
and style.
“The spotted hawk swoops by
and accuses me, he complains
of my gab and loitering./
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am
untranslatable,/ I sound my
barbaric yawp over the roofs of
the world” (“Song of Myself
A Few More Things
Whitman used “chunky language” to enlarge the
possibilities of American poetry.
 He used slang words or invented words like
“Yawp” to reflect the depth of heart he hoped
to express.
 In repetition he trumpeted America as a land of
greatness, diversity, passion, and optimism. He
wrote of a great America.
Leaves of Grass was evolved from 12 unnamed poems in
A small collection to more than 383 in its final edition.
In Leaves of Grass
Whitman wrote this collection of
poetry as an epic, a great journey of
the poet who is the hero. He is a
hero of the future and all of his
actions reflect a spiritual and
sometimes physical journey across
the landscape of America.
 Whitman “cajoles, and thunders; he
chants, celebrates, chuckles, and
Walt Whitman
“spills from his capacious American
soul every dreg of unEnglishness,
every sweet sound thumbing its
nose at traditional subject matter
and tone. Here is Samson pulling
the house of literature down around
his ears, yet singing in the ruins”
(Evler 350).
“The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as
affectionately as he absorbed it.”
Walt Whitman
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"
They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed-I, too, am America.
- Langston Hughes
“I, Too, Sing America”
Reflection: Write a half page reflection about why you
might have omitted a group/groups from your poem.
Discuss their contribution, positive or negative, to your
Write a half page reflection on why you think Whitman
might have left out a particular group in his poem.
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