Walt Whitman – transcendentalism – Law

Date of birth and death

Who is the author that is the exact opposite of what Whitman’s art was?
Allan Edgar Poe

What were Whitman’s (and Melville’s) qualities?
both were exuberant and withdrawn at time, both laid a strong premium on the ties of friendship, both harbored a mixture of masculine energy and “feminine quiescence”

What was the Brooklyn Daily Eagle?
A newspaper. Whitman became the editor. He did not fare too well there however, as he disagreed with the Democratic Party—the tone of his editorials was considered far too radical—and he was besides regarded as a little too weird and lazy for the job. While working for these various newspapers he also began writing poetry and short stories.

What is the name of Whitman’s first collection of poems?
In 1855 he borrowed a press from some friends and set up the 12 poems (including an early version of “Song of Myself”) which made up the first edition of Leaves of Grass. The book received little attention, even though it did elicit a letter of praise from Ralph Waldo Emerson, which Whitman printed in the second edition (1856).

What happened to “Leaves of Grass”
In 1857 he became editor of the Brooklyn Time, and two years later found a publisher for a new edition of Leaves of Grass, which contained 124 new poems.

From what experience did Whitman’s finest poems grow out of?
Some of his finest poems grew out of his personal experience of the horrors of the Civil War and out of his attempt to reconcile the havoc of the war with his visionary idea of America

What is SEQUEL about?
Drum Taps was published in 1865, and with its companion volume, Sequel, appeared in the 1867 edition of Leaves of Grass. Sequel was written in the aftermath of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and includes Whitman’s elegies for the dead president, “When Lilacs Last n the Dooryard Bloom’d” and “O Captain! My Captain!”

What is the name of the prose work that Whitman wrote? What is it about?
Democratic Vistas (1871) is a fiery reaffirmation of democratic principles in the face of the widespread corruption of the Reconstruction Era.

Leaves of Grass. How many poems in all in 1881?

Why can we say that Whitman is still the American poet par excellence?
Whitman is still to this day the American poet par excellence in the sense that he broke away from the genteel tradition dominated by European (i.e. British) standards of composition and subject-matter that had been prevalent in American poetry.

What is omnipresent in Leaves of Grass?
The patriotic vein is omnipresent in Leaves of Grass, where America appears as the country that both nature and history have been waiting for. The (new) American poet is a kind of bard, a wizard, a seer, a prophet, an initiate whose spirit responds to his country’s spirit, who literally embodies its whole geography, its rivers and mountains and lakes.

By whom was Whitman influenced?
He was of course influenced by the Transcendentalists’ idea that nature reflected the spiritual world, and that God was present in each object and each human being no matter how humble.

What was Whitman devoted in?
Indeed people are divine, which explains his devotion to both body and soul, a feature that was entirely new in American poetry so far. He even once declared that Leaves of Grass itself stood for a being “comprehended at no times by its part and at all time by its unity.”

What is the longest poem in the collection?
“Song of Myself” is the longest poem in the collection.

What is “Song of Myself” about?
It epitomizes Whitman’s achievement by simultaneously announcing and exemplifying the potency of the liberated self. It draws its singular strength from the poet’s inclusiveness, from its accretive style, which provides a lexical rhythm instead of the usual classical rhymes and iambic (metrical) patterns common to Bryant’s, Poe’s, Emerson’s or Freneau’s poems. The long poem and the long line—which he invented—was going to become a standard feature of American poetry, as was the kind of language used—a medley of popular and high-flown speech, which he himself called a “language experiment.” One of the characteristics of the poem is to extend some sort of boundless, exuberant sympathy to virtually every creature that he saw, hence the breath-taking “catalogue” that runs from bride to prostitute, carpenter to president, etc…

Where did Whitman draw strength from?
Whitman drew strength from a sympathy that extended to almost every creature and person he saw, the implicit idea being that men and women themselves were the real poems. Many of Whitman’s most brilliant images come from a sensuous appreciation of the male and the female body, both of which he seems to have worshipped

Whitman repeatedly said that poetry must be organic. Explain.
He repeatedly said that poetry must be organic, that it must grow as naturally as plants, hence the comprehensive title metaphor of Leaves of Grass. “Organic” has also been understood to mean that there is no longer any difference in nature between form and content, the former “naturally” evolving from the latter. He himself declared that a successful poem was one that spoke with “the unimpeachableness of the sentiment of trees in the wood and grass by the roadside” (Preface to the 1st edition of Leaves, 1855).

Explain how he compared America with The English language.
Just as America was for him the promised land of democracy and individual liberty, so was the English language itself, an idiom that is “brawny enough, and limber and full enough” (ibid.) which he characterizes as the language of resistance and of political freedom, and also, more interestingly for poetry, a language of accretion that has attracted, adopted, and adapted foreign components and terms (he probably meant French words here). Whitman’s cadence, made of initial repetitions, and long rhapsodic sentences that achieve a psalm-like effect have left an enduring mark on much of contemporary poetry.