Walt Whitman

December 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

by Paul Stancato

An avid reader, Paul Stancato enjoys the works of Walt Whitman. American poet Walt Whitman remains among the most influential in the history of the United States. Walt Whitman was also active as a teacher, essayist, and journalist during his life.

Born in 1819, Walt Whitman was the second of nine children, four of whom suffered from various physical disabilities. Sadly, it is unlikely that Walt Whitman’s father, a stern man, or his mother ever read his poetry. However, Walt Whitman maintained a deep, lifelong affection for his mother who, though functionally illiterate, embraced the young boy with unconditional support and affection. Walt Whitman grew up in Long Island, New York. Walt Whitman developed an early love for words. Though forced to leave public school at the age of 11 to help support his family, Walt Whitman nonetheless remained a voracious reader. Self-taught, Whitman independently devoured a host of classic and modern literary works and became thoroughly acquainted with the Bible. Walt Whitman engaged the printer’s trade at age 12 before moving on, at age 17, to teach. Whitman subsequently developed and implemented an innovative, experimental style of instruction.

In 1855, he transitioned to the field of journalism and operated as an editor for Brooklyn and Manhattan newspapers. Walt Whitman then moved to New Orleans in 1848 and his stint in the historic town deeply informed his work throughout the remained of his life. It was here that Whitman first witnessed and developed his profound abhorrence for the practice of human slavery. Walt Whitman subsequently returned to New York City and founded a newspaper not long after.

Walt Whitman developed the body of his personal literary style beginning around 1848. Consisting of free and experimental verse, Whitman’s work infused American transcendentalism with modern literary elements and his poetry came under attack for its unabashed sexual references. In addition, Whitman’s lifelong passion for music was a core influence in terms of both rhythm as well as word choice. Walt Whitman’s most notable masterpiece, the epic work, Leaves Of Grass, required three decades to complete and Whitman continued to work on it in intervals for the rest of his life. Walt Whitman passed away in the spring of 1892 and remains an unsurpassed American literary figure today.

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