How Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” Influenced Later Movements in American Literature

Oct 31, 2021 | 0 comments

Oct 31, 2021 | Essays | 0 comments

The paper discusses how Walt Whitman’s *Leaves of Grass* influenced later movements in American literature. It begins by analyzing the book “*Leaves of Grass*” which was published in 1855 by Whitman and the various collections of poems documented by Whitman. The paper then contextualizes the book “Leaves of Grace” by analyzing different poetry aspects adopted by Whitman and the drastic shift from the traditional poetry. In this section The Romantic “I” and his poetic form is analyzed in-depth with various rhetorical devices used. The relationship of Emerson on the literary works of Whitman is also highlighted in the paper and how he shaped the works of Walt Whitman. The paper also discusses some of the contemporary critical reviews of the book by comparing and contrasting different authors. The paper is finalized by analyzing how Whitman changed the poetry world and his influence on later writers and readers.

Table of Contents
Abstract 1
Introduction. 2
Contextualizing “Leaves of Grace”. 3
America as a Literary and Political Nation. 3
Whitman and Emerson. 5
Aestheticism.. 5
1. The Romantic “I”. 6
2. Poetic Form.. 7
Contemporary critical reviews of “*Leaves of Grass*”. 9
How Whitman changed the Poetry World. 14
Walt Whitman’s “*Leaves of Grass*” influence on later Writers. 15
Conclusion. 18

The poetry collection *Leaves of Grass* by Whitman first appeared in 1855. Most of the professional life of Whitman was spent on rewriting and revising *Leaves of Grass* many times until he passed away. This explains many different editions of this poetry collection (Miller, 57). The first edition of the book included notable poems such as “I sing the Body Electric” and “Song of Myself” which celebrated sexual passion, physical health and the beauty of the human body. Moreover, in his third edition included 122 newly written poems and included “Calamus” poems that recorded a homosexual love affair that was intense. The fourth edition included civil war poems such as “Sequel to Drum Taps, Drum Taps. “In his eight edition, he incorporated the “November Boughs,” and as he was writing “Garrulous to the very last” he contemplated his death. However, still wrote more buoyant poems for his ninth edition (Britannica, 1). The title of the poetry collection was a play on words. The word “grass” in the title was a slang for informal, silly pieces that compositors such as Whitman would apply when things got slower at the workplace (Delbanco, 1). The poems contained in the collection are connected loosely, with each poem representing Walt Whitman’s celebration of the philosophy of humanity and life. It was a conventional book of poetry written in free verse and in the first person which broke from all the traditional frameworks of the poetry of the time. *Leaves of Grass* today is part of the American canon as one of the literary pieces that broke ground in American history. The paper will discuss how Walt Whitman’s *Leaves of Grass* influenced later movements in American literature. The drastic shift in a poetic form in “*Leaves of Grass*” by Whitman tremendously changed American Literature. *Contextualizing “Leaves of Grace”*
In analyzing how Walt Whitman’s “*Leaves of Grass*” influenced later movements in American literature, it is significant to place this poetry collection into social and historical context. Therefore, the paper will first offer a historical introduction to provide an explanation of America’s sociopolitical climate during that time. The historical aspect will also highlight the effect this socio-political climate had had on the world of literature during that period of time. Thereafter, transcendentalists will be introduced and how they influenced the world of literature. *America as a Literary and Political Nation*
In 1776 when Independence was declared in America, it claimed the liberation of America and also stated equal rights of people, thereby ushering a new nation. However, this declaration was not accepted by the British immediately until ten years later when a new constitution was drafted hence solving most issues (Edlund, 4).
During that time, Gura pointed out that a number of Europeans were critical of America and even questioned if they could change the inherited sociopolitical framework from their European roots (165). The European critics argued that change demanded something to be changing from, which by that time was lacking in America. However, the idea of equal rights for men that emerged out of a desire for individual identity in America made for development on all societal levels, even in the literary arena (Gura, 167). This resulted in American literature being referred to as the American Renaissance. The term renaissance means the significance of the contemporary authors since they developed individualistic styles separate from Europe (Levine and Krupat, 446).
According to Levine and Krupat, the American Renaissance authors reflected upon the socio-political concerns like the contradicting opinions about the legality of slavery and multiple cultures assimilations into one well-functioning and unified society (446). During the American renaissance, attempts were also made to create a literary, nationalist spirit as a solution to the persistent call for nationalism. However, this did not go without some criticisms emanating within the literary circles. Levine and Krupat observed that the criticisms were as a result of a mounting Abolitionist Movement which called for an American identity that is more multicultural. This movement was being spearheaded by Emerson among others (454). Therefore, this group made America be recognized as a melting pot of cultures.
In the early 19th century, thus, the Americans were still grappling with the conflicting identity crisis. There was a call for something new to offer direction to a future that is fundamentally stable. *Whitman and Emerson*
One of the major sources of inspiration for Whitman was Emerson, and his writings deeply influenced Whitman. In accordance with the request by Emerson of separating the old world from the new world, Whitman felt the need of answering the call by Emerson for new American scholar. Matterson stated that “The Poet” which would steer America into a new era and once and for all diminish the influence of the Europeans (VII-VIII).
There was a genuine interest by Whitman in his country. This made him get engaged with the American current events, have him attend many public rallies, and kept him updated with politics as well as having (Killingsworth, 4). This made him listen to Emerson’s slavery speech in the 1840s where he infused his own definition of self-reliance and personal abolitionist opinions (Killingsworth, 15). For long, Emerson had argued for more Romantic connection in the literary arena and this belief helped I shaping his appearances in public politics. This speech’s influence could later be seen in aesthetic developments of Whitman.
After writing and publishing “*Leaves of Grass*” in 1855 and sending a copy to Emerson. This self-promotion act proved successful as Emerson considered the book as very innovative and of contemporary poetry: “I find it the most extraordinary piece of wisdom and wit that America has yet contributed” (Killingsworth, 22). Therefore, it was the influence of the words of Emerson, in addition to his calling for an American scholar and acknowledgement that gave Whitman the courage for pushing the borders of literature and “purse how own deepest insights” (22). *Aestheticism*
In “*Leaves of Grass*,” the historical aspects also need to be placed into structural, social and historical context for clarity. This paper will refer to aesthetics to mean structural aspects, subject matter, form and theme of poetry. Aesthetic is core since the poetry by Whitman answered the call by Emerson for new poetry form that is innovative. Hence, it is important for the analysis of the poetry’s new aspects in “*Leaves of Grass*” to first of all highlight some of the traditional elements at that time that formed the framework. The paper will first introduce briefly how Romantic ideals influenced the narrative perspective, thereafter the subsequent changes in poetic form understanding. *1. The Romantic “I”*
During the Romantic period, until the early 1800s, the third person was used in writing the majority of poems. The typical subject in poetry during that time was the Petrarchan sonnet lover longing for a beautiful woman. However, there was a change in consciousness in poetry during the 1700s, and this shift in poetry form other’s subject matter into contextualization of the poet who penned the words was something that William Wordsworth understood well. Lynch and Stillinger asserted that this was a change that William Wordsworth registered when he located the poem’s source in his preface not in outer nature but in the individual poet’s psychology (13). From this idea, the “I” transformed from being controversial to becoming very common in the Romantic poetry. The Romantic movement was represented ably by Wordsworth as he personified the new “I” contemporary in all his work. Moreover, he showed a more commercial poetry type that was appealing to both the common man and the educated (Lynch and Stillinger, 13).
Whitman adapted this contemporary way of writing in his poem “*Leaves of Grass*” and wrote it in the first person after hearing Emerson speaking in the late 1840s. according to Killingsworth, this speech by Emerson influenced him to adopt a new approach in poetry which took the experimental “I” form, and a prose form, from that moment, moving forward (15).
The “Song of Myself,” the first line is “I celebrate myself” (23), and he introduced the perspective of a first-person unequivocally. However, the “I” of Whitman takes many forms. It can be read as representing the soul and the body, and in this case, the poet’s soul and body is the real first-person form. “I am the poet of the body, / and I am the poet of the soul” (40). However, at the end of the poem, he reveals that the “I” was symbolic of America as a nation: “I am large…I contain multitudes” (Whitman, 77).
The “I” of Whitman outdoes the Romantic first person “I” and becomes like an evolving living entity in constant change. At one point, it is dominant, only to be dependent and submissive the next. It represents the reader, Whitman, and all of America. Therefore, Whitman’s “I” demonstrated a new form of poetry aesthetics, and perhaps was more of a representation of the many various perspectives seen later in Realism instead of the feature being argued in the Romantic era. Realism is a reflection of reality as diverse, and with these many views comes the divided definition of what exactly is reality naturally. This is similar to the way in which Whitman’s “I” has many definitions. The “*Leaves of Grass*’” “I” also supports the development of individualism by Whitman as it, through its continuous change, becoming a representation of all eh Americans, and also through that is also a representation of the American soul. Therefore, the first person “I” of Whitman demonstrates the same solidarity and qualities, as his individualism paradox (Edlund, 23).
*2. Poetic Form*
In Whitman’s “*Leaves of Grass*,” one of the aspects which were most innovative was its form of poetry. This absence of visible structure today is called a free form of poetry and is composed of stanzas that are shaped individualistically. Griffith asserted that generally Whitman is regarded as the first free verse poetry practitioner in modern time (159). However, it is important to note that during that time, “*Leaves of Grass*” was regarded as lacking any form of poetry, and this biggest subject in most of the contemporary criticism. This collection of poems book was referred to as an insult to forms of poetry, ignorant and immoral (Killingsworth, 106).
According to Edlund, the poetic version of a paragraph is referred to as a stanza (10), implying that each break in the textual writings in a poem is an indication of a new stanza. A stichic verse is not divided into stanzas. This is what distinguishes prose from poetry, and this is related to the line’s length. In prose, the line will be continuous to the end, while poetry, the line is broken (Fry, 347). The Rhyme schemes can be subtler, obvious, easy or complex. Besides the end-rhymes that are regular, there also exists the rich-rhymes that sound the same: nose/knows and heard/beard and eye-rhymes that are only looking the same. However, there also exists various slant-rhymes: vowel repeated by assonance: kiss/pit, full or partial consonance repeating the consonants: wild/weld and gulls/coils (Fry, 168). Maybe the most vital poetry aspect during the time prior to the Romantic Period was the intricate application of the rhetorical devices. Lipking and Noggle noted that these rhetorical definitions and patterns of words such as anaphora and alliteration were core in all literary education at that time in Europe and can be traced back as far as during the Roman empire (367).
Up until the period between the late 1700s and early 1800s, the structure of poems had been static relatively in the sonnet form. There is a long history of sonnet dating back to Italy in the 13th century where Petrarchan sonnet was finally invested by Francesco Petrarca, and it had the greatest poetry influence in Europe. Fry indicated that poetry during the Renaissance literature was defined by the complex order of linguistic formed by an increasing number of various rhetorical devices (281-282). Therefore, from a structural perspective, there was a little room for individualism and emphasis was not always on the author but instead on the subject matter.
Whilst Petrarchan Lover was a subject matter that was common in the sonnet, in Renaissance literature and other theological subjects, the most common theme was love. The Romantic Period’s sonnet, despite the fact that it contained smiles and metaphors as well, was not as difficult and complex for deciphering as maybe the older masters of poems like the Shakespeare. Essentially, the sonnet is one stanza comprising of fourteen lines of the particular rhyme-schemes pattern. However, the free form of poetry does not have any stringent rules. It is upon the poet to create his or her pattern of lineated rhymes, meter, stanzas, and form. Therefore, Fry stated that what might be appearing as lacking any form has a higher likelihood of being a conscious of the poet as his or her aesthetic approach (175-176).
It is evident that the poetic structure of Whitman greatly differs from the contemporaneous traditional poetry, for instance, the sonnet. Nevertheless, it does not lack the poetic form or structure. In fact, it cannot be disputed that Walt Whitman placed a great effort into using the traditional framework and rhetorical devices as a literary basis in his writing. But, he changed his poetic form so as to make his poetry represent his individualism, as a solidarity with the common people (Edlund, 25). *Contemporary critical reviews of “Leaves of Grass”*
Opinions about the poetry written by Whitman and his place in the history of America are divided and diverse. This section will attempt to discuss a few critical reviews on Walt Whitman, his criticisms, and his admiration of the aesthetics of “*Leaves of Grass*” as well as the admiration of Emerson.
Stephen Matterson in his book “The Complete Poems of Walt Whitman,” in the introduction, he begins by referring to Whitman as a “revolutionary poet” (Matterson, v). This view currently is being shared by many of his critics. In his book, “The Cambridge Introduction to Walt Whitman,” Killingsworth also is in agreement with Matterson when he refers to Whitman as “a bold innovator in a free-form” (Killingsworth, vii). Both authors are referring to the drastic shift in a poetic form which was introduced in 1855 in “*Leaves of Grass*.” Moreover, Matterson even refers to “*Leaves of Grass*” book as an “American Epic.” He further pointed out the significance of how it was for Walt Whitman, from a perspective of socio-politics, to assume the position as “American Bard” as articulated by Emerson, because it was eminent for the calling of a national poet (Edlund, 11). Meyer also pointed out that it was the instinctive knowledge the Americans held that they had the only rare chance of developing their own peculiar language and aesthetics, is the fundamental reason why the breached between America and Europe alongside the calling for new nation’s national poet was eminent and prominent in America’s literary world (Meyer, 75). Therefore, the literary, political and social climate all asked for something new, and it came in the form of “*Leaves of Grass*” that was free-form poetry and was considered innovative.
Edlund also pointed out that the correspondences between Emerson and Whitman assisted in boosting the confidence of Whitman as a poet (12). Emerson acknowledged the attempts made by Whitman in becoming the American scholar which he called in his “The poet” essay when he gave Whitman a positive review. Matterson also recognizes the intention of embodying what was asked by Emerson when he wrote that “the greatness of Whitman lays in his aspiration” (viii), referring to the attempts made by Whitman in responding to Emerson. Killingsworth is also in agreement, as he argued that Ralph Emerson must have been “flattered by his influence on the book that was obvious” (105). This topic is also discussed by Meyer as he quotes the initial sentence of Emerson in the correspondences between Whitman and Emerson where Emerson acknowledged that, “I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of *Leaves of Grass*” (Edlund, 12). However, Meyer further noted that despite the initial good relationship between Whitman and Emerson, Emerson later changed his attitude regarding Whitman because of Walt Whitman’s apparently compulsive need for more good reviews. However, admission of Emerson by Whitman does not pass unnoticed by Emerson himself during that time or the contemporary critics.
According to Killingsworth, it was the positive review written by Emerson on the book “*Leaves of Grass*” that made it possible for Walt to create a relationship with other Transcendentalists. Thoreau and Alcott had a thought that the new form of literature was different, however, they acknowledged the poetic depth of Whitman in contextualizing some of the Transcendentalists ideas (106). He further claimed that the spirit of the Transcendentalists was most visible in the preface of “*Leaves of Grass*’” very first edition (23). In one of the letters written by Thoreau, he stated the following about “*Leaves of Grass*:” “Though sometimes ineffectual and rude, it is a great poem that is primitive, – a trumpet-note or an alarm ringing through the camp of the Americans. Wonderfully like the Orientals too” (296). Therefore, the today’s contemporary critics tend to acknowledge the poem collection “*Leaves of Grass*” as a transcendentalists movement text, at least its first edition. Thoreau demonstrates an understanding of the attempts of Whitman in presenting a new poetic approach that is innovative when he stated that “*Leaves of Grass*” to be working as an alarm bell in the American camp and for the American people (Edlund, 12).
Despite the Transcendentalists acknowledging Whitman and his book, the literary critics during that time did not accept, and even the public was not friendly. Killingsworth noted that the public reviews on “*Leaves of Grass*” during its first publication attacked Whitman’s personality and the form of the book, to imply that he needed to be institutionalized (Killingsworth, 106). Matterson also noted that Whitman went even a step further is writing three positive reviews himself in an attempt of changing the hostility against the book (vii). He further acknowledges the attempts by Whitman in helping in contextualizing his personal work. He further argued that the reviews written by Whitman himself should be seen as important and helpful I trying to understand his aesthetics instead of just self-promotion (Matterson, VII). Matterson further argued that the greatest aspiration of Whitman with his poetry was for an embodiment of democracy itself and he even quoted Walt Whitman: “I resist anything better than my own diversity.” Matterson calls it Whitman’s declaration his personal view of democracy as it shows the thoughts of Whitman of accepting multitude within a nation and also within oneself (IX). It is a belief held by Matterson that the published contemporaneous reviews on Whitman’s first edition of the book “*Leaves of Grass*” acts as a framework for the expectations and a poet in America during that time. On the other hand, Meyer also debated with the tendency of Whitman in placing much focus on minor details and suggested that the hyper-visualization of Whitman might have been the reason for the changing attitude by Emerson towards Whitman (Meyer, n.p). therefore, the contemporary attitudes towards the book and Whitman himself were harsh, and the attempt by Whitman in helping the public to understand also were not noticed.
On the style used in “*Leaves of Grass*,” which is much debated, Killingsworth opinionated that despite the apparent absence of poetic structure, there exist vivid traces of, for example, King James Bible: “alternative rhymes, irregular line lengths, and repetitions of highly varied patterns” (22). He further praised this form of poetry when he said that Walt Whitman introduced “repetition of sounds and words, breathless long lines to create a form that is like a web for replacing the conventional meters applied in the majority of the experimental poets which preceded him” (24). According to Meyer, the lack of lyrical/verbal attributes is precisely the unique identity of the poem. He further claimed that the book does not have “the quality of a fine poem or book or any artistic work but the quality of a man living” (80). It is also considered by Matterson that the overburdened, incorrect and bold form to be having, primarily, a provocative intent and a thought-provoking. He concluded, “the objective of the authors will be to create an astonishment instead of pleasing and to stir the passions more than to charming the taste” (Matterson, X). he further goes ahead and addresses the difficulties an individual might face when reading the book by stating on the need of the readers to find traditional symbolism in the “*Leaves of Grass*’” texts. Matterson holds the belief that this makes it more difficult in comprehending Whitman’s poetic style since he possesses more of a democratic aesthetic, Walt attempted to assert “full equality of things and people” (X). therefore, the today’s critics seem to be in agreement that “*Leaves of Grass*’” aesthetics served another purpose rather than being the trademark of a new bard of America. That is, Whitman wanted also to question the sociopolitical issues.
The innovative and bold form of Whitman met with many criticisms in modern times and also in the 1800s. however, it was these aspects that were groundbreaking which placed it in America’s literary canons. Most contemporary critics are in agreement that “*Leaves of Grass*’” free-form displays individualisms that seems to have been the intention of Whitman. *How Whitman changed the Poetry World*
Poetry rhymed in the early 19th century, and that was final. Free verse was nonexistent, and anything that did not follow the laid down European traditions dictating form, content and style was dismissed quickly as gobbly-gook of a commoner. It might be referred to as moving, perhaps sentimental but not poetic (Allison, 1).
All these were changed by Walt Whitman. According to Whitman, an ideal American poet did not place himself above the common person. He did not hold fast to the traditions just for the sake of the traditions. Moreover, the most important of all is that an ideal American poet did not identify with Europe, its society, people or its land. He was an American in all aspects (Allison, 1). Whitman’s high-minded ideals contracted everything directly about modern America poets and American poetry. He preached free verse and equality to the sonnet clinging elites. Furthermore, while Whitman is known globally as the father of free verse poems, he first published, *Leaves of Grass*, his first edition in 1855, he was literarily a nobody. However, the audacity displayed by Whitman was boundless. He was not contented with taking risks with his free verse style, and he was not contented with coming out of the woodwork and call the literati out (Allison, 1). Walt left school at the age of eleven years to start his career which included stints in printing, teaching, journalism and publishing. He learned ways of setting type, and also acquired the popular culture feel, and to some extent marketing. In consequence, this would result in his ultimate demonstration of panache, that is the promotion of his personal work.
Upon the unveiling of *Leaves of Grass*, Allison pointed out that Whitman sent to many prominent literary figures complimentary copies. This is currently a common tactic for promotion, but it was a very rare boldness move back that time. However, when he received a favourable response from Ralph Waldo Emerson from the copy he sent him, Whitman went a great length by publishing Emerson’s response in the New York Daily Times without seeking permission from Emerson. Moreover, he went a step further to publish his own work’s reviews anonymously in many newspapers. Praises for Walt Whitman was in abundance from many quarters (1).
However, Whitman and his form of poetry were not received well by all. Many also considered his poetry as obscene, and he was perceived frequently to be very arrogant beyond the limit. When it came out that a number of reviews were self-written and published by Whitman, many people were not pleased. Furthermore, the sixth edition of his poetry, *Leaves of Grass*, in 1882 was prohibited from publishing in Boston City on the basis of obscenity. However, perhaps because of, or despite all the controversies that surrounded Whitman, Allison observed that Walt Whitman achieved a feat that most authors and poets do not. He lived to see his literary works get fame and rise to prominence in America (Allison, 1).
*Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” influence on later Writers*
Walt Whitman’s *Leaves of Grass* impact on American literature over the past century is immeasurable. Every American poet virtually at some point has directly engaged Whitman, often in the poem. For instance, the way Allen Ginsberg engaged him in his poem “A Supermarket in California” and Hart Crane in “The Bridge” (McGarvey and McGarvey, 1). The influence of Walt Whitman on the contemporary poetry in North America is so huge that it has been said that there is a division in American poetry in two major camps. One camp which naturally flows and believes in Whitman, and another camp that consciously strives to not accept Whitman’s style of poetry. The great talents of Whitman displayed a complex paradox to the modernist poets such as Ezra Pound and T.S Eliot, who recognized the value of Whitman but also feared his influence’ implications. During the apex of modernism, he continued presenting a problem until he got rescued by other influential poets such as Hart Crane, and William Carlos William. Later on, other bat poets and Allen Ginsberg would transform and become his most vociferous champions of his humanistic, abundant and expansive America. Moreover, Whitman’s hand can also be seen in play in a number of 20th-century poets such June Jordan, Mary Oliver, Galway kennel, John Berryman, Philip Levine, Langston Hughes, James Wright, Kenneth Koch, William Carlos Williams, Joy Harjo among others (Mcgill, 1). Internationally, Walt Whitman was also revered by global poets raging from Rimbaud to Pablo Neruda to Fernando Pessoa and Garcia Lorca. Harold Bloom, a literary critic and Yale professor also regarded Whitman as one of the five most important American poets of all time. Other most influential poets according to him include Wallace Stevens, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost and Hart Crane. The enormous influence of Whitman can also be seen in the works of English poet and novelist D.H. Lawrence (Mcgill, 1).
According to McGarvey and McGarvey, Walt in his poems always addressed his future readers, and many American poets have continually talked back to him- questioning him, praising him, and arguing with him about the democratic and diverse American future he promised in his poem. The number of the American poets who have continued with this endless debate with Whitman are many. From Robert Creeley and William Carlos Williams to Muriel Rukeyser and Langston Hughes, from Marín Espada to Yusef Komunyakaa to June Jordan (1). The American poets have regarded the radical poetics of Whitman as intertwined essentially with the national character, a kind of distinctive and distinct American voice.
Throughout the wider culture, Whitman’s voice is also heard too. In films such as Down by Law; The Notebook; Bull Durham; Sophie’s Choice; Dead Poets Society; Now, Voyager, and many more. Similarly, in television series like “Breaking Bad,” where the name Walter White s an indication of the connection to Walt Whitman, and where the recurring central role is played by Whitman’s work; and in a number of recent ads which includes those for Levi’s, iPad, and Audi (McGarvey and McGarvey, 1). Moreover, over 500 composers have set Walt Whitman to music, including Ned Rorem and Charles Ives. McGarvey and McGarvey also pointed out that the presence of Whitman is also felt in many installations of art everywhere, including the recent New York City Aids Memorial by Jenny Holzer’s, that featured excerpts of “*Leaves of Grass*” and “Song of Myself”
Many famous figures and renowned poets found inspiration by reading Walt Whitman’s poetry. A number of American writers cite Walt as a source of inspiration for their own work, by showing admiration for the controversial themes he often addressed as well as his structural innovations that were groundbreaking. One of the founders of the Transcendentalist movement, Ralph Waldo Emerson, in a letter in 1855 to Whitman, he wrote: “I greet you at the beginning of a great career.” He would later become a major influence on the poetry of Whitman (n.a, 1).
One of the prominent late 19th century and early 20th-century poet, Ezra Pound, penned a poem called “the Pact,” with the main subject being Walt Whitman. Despite the fact that Whitman passed away shortly after Ezra Pound was born, his literary poems would later become prominent extremely in the literary community. Moreover, Ezra read his work at the commencement of his career. Ezra initially was very vocal on his dislike of the rugged style of Whitman’s poetry. However, In the “Pact,” Ezra Pound admitted that he was influenced by Whitman and his career path was also paved by Whitman. Similarly, in his essay entitled “What I Feel About Walt Whitman,” he further made a declaration that Walt Whitman was America’s Poet and further asserted that “He is America” (n.a, 1).
Whitman was also held in high regard by the 19th-century famous steel tycoon, Andrew Carnegie. He referred to him as the “great America’s poet so far.” During the later years of 19th century, Bram Stoker, a gothic novelist in his ground-breaking novel called Dracula, he modelled the character of Dracula after Walt Whitman. According to Bram, he wanted Dracula to have a representation of a quintessential male and according to him, the perfect character was Whitman (n.a, 1).
The poetry collection *Leaves of Grass* also had a significant influence on the early work of Allen Ginsberg, a 20th-century poet. Allen in his poem “A Supermarket in California,” addressed it to Whitman (n.a, 1). *Conclusion*
In conclusion, the paper discussed how Walt Whitman’s *Leaves of Grass* influenced later movements in American literature. The paper found out that the first edition published in 1855 of the book “*Leaves of Grass*” was a response to the contemporaneous request for the national identity in America and also within the literary circles’ search for their own American style. Therefore, it can be argued that it was a declaration of the literary independence in America. The contextualization of Whitman’s poetry serves as a preparation for the American new and unfamiliar poetic experience, as well as what the reader will encounter.
Whitman not only claimed his identity as the new American bard, a poet and a scholar in all the texts he penned, but also adopted a poetic structure in a bid to embody the American soul in his representation of “I. “It is everyone he met, himself, and everybody who read his poems, it is America, it is the soul and it is the body. Hence, Walt Whitman tried authenticating his poetry by covering many definitions and his poetry went beyond the contemporary literary appreciation during that time.
Moreover, the innovative aesthetic that Whitman applied does not lack the structure of poems, but to the contrary, it contained rhetorical devices that were well thought through. However, in Whitman’s poetry, he let the form to be controlled by the subject matter, unlike the traditional poems where the subject matter was controlled by forms particularly on the word choices. Even though sometimes the Whitman’s “I” seemed ambiguous, it displayed aesthetic development that was later seen in Realism whereby in most instances, various perspectives got presented in ensuring the best reality presentation.
The paper also discussed some of the contemporary critical reviews of “*Leaves of Grass*,” how Whitman changed the poetry world and his influence on writers and readers.
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