Friday, November 6, 2009

Walt Whitman

Recently I’ve come across a site called Poem Hunter where you can look up your favorite poet’s poems or read new poets’ works. I’m sure anyone interested in poetry has heard of this site already since I’m a little behind on internet time. While I was browsing the “classic poet” section, I came across a poet that always touched my heart from my school days—Walt Whitman (1819-1892). Even back in the days when poetry did not entice me for some reason Walt Whitman’s did. It’s like I felt every word he put down as oppose to other poets. I’m not saying that I don’t like other poets’ works, but it was Walt’s that always stayed with me.

His poetry still affects me, which is surprising since much of his poetry is free verse. This is the form of poetry I recognize in his writings, although I’m not an expert in poetry. Free verse isn’t my favorite style of poetry and I sometimes feel it’s too free allowing anyone to throw some words down and call it poetry. Or maybe it’s about me being old-fashion and wanting meter and rhyme, effort put into a style along with the result making the reader feel and think about what was said. But I must admit, I have written a few free style poems in an effort to fit in with the popular kids.

In reading about Walt Whitman, I found he was self-educated by reading the works of Homer, Dante and Shakespeare. Due to a large family, he left school early to help support the family. I also read that he used music in many of his poems using terms, instruments and composers. This is probably part of the reason that draws me to him. Music was a big part of my upbringing, and found an appreciation for all types of music.

Do you have a favorite poet? If so, what do you like about their poetry? Is it the rhythm, choice of words, the style, or their main themes?

To end this post, I’d like to post a Walt Whitman’s poem. This one really touched me and the end is like a punch in the stomach.

I Sit And Look Out

I SIT and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all
oppression and shame;
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with
themselves, remorseful after deeds done;
I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying,
neglected, gaunt, desperate;
I see the wife misused by her husband--I see the treacherous seducer
of young women;
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love, attempted to be
hid--I see these sights on the earth;
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny--I see martyrs and
I observe a famine at sea--I observe the sailors casting lots who
shall be kill'd, to preserve the lives of the rest;
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon
laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;
All these--All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look
out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.


  1. Better late than never ;-)

    Hi Bea! That is a great poem from Walt Whitman. You are correcto-mundo about the last line being a punch in the gut!

    I never really studied poetry, so I'm not sure about the terms you used (free verse, etc.) but I did recently come across a poem by Abraham Lincoln while visiting Springfield this past summer, and something about it really affected me. First of all, I never knew Abe wrote poetry, did you? Second of all, I can't get over how he was able to capture the essence of bittersweet nostalgia with so few words. I admire poets and songwriters because personally, I can't express momentous events in my life with just a few stanzas, yet the way Abe described his feelings after returning to his childhood home was everything I felt, but could not concisely express, after I had a chance to go back and walk through my old childhood home (a bungalow in the Chicago area).

    Here is the poem:

    I love the line:

    "O Memory! thou midway world
    'Twixt earth and paradise"...So true!

    Mud :)

    Hope the link works, if not, I think I saw it on the poem hunter site you posted about.

  2. Hi Mud! I haven’t heard that phrase “correcto-mundo” in a long time, so thanks for the nostalgia.

    I studied poetry in college, but it was one of my difficult classes. Only recently did I learn of Abraham Lincoln’s poems. He did capture his childhood in this poem although it seems so sad as if he’s close to death.

    The link works and those lines are great. I also like this stanza:

    “Air held his breath; trees, with the spell,
    Seemed sorrowing angels round,
    Whose swelling tears in dew-drops fell
    Upon the listening ground.”

    There are so many amazing poets and the poem hunter site has many. What I love about poetry is it’s so personal.