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Influence of “Leaves of Grass” on American Literature

Dec 31, 2022 | 0 comments

Dec 31, 2022 | 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*” 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 traditional poetry. In this section, The Romantic “I” and his poetic Form are analyzed in-depth using various rhetorical devices. The relationship between Emerson on the literary works of Whitman is also highlighted in the paper as 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.



Whitman’s poetry collection *Leaves of Grass* first appeared in 1855. Most of their professional life of Whitman was spent 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, his third edition included 122 newly written poems and “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 eighth edition, he incorporated the “November Boughs,” and as he was writing “Garrulous to the very last,” he contemplated his death. However, he 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 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. Whitman’s drastic poetic form shift in “*Leaves of Grass*” 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 explain America’s sociopolitical climate during that time. The historical aspect will also highlight the effect of this socio-political climate on the world of literature during that period. After that, 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 in a new nation. However, this declaration was not accepted by the British immediately until ten years later, when a new constitution was drafted, solving most issues (Edlund, 4).
During that time, Gura pointed out that several 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, which was lacking in America then. However, the idea of equal rights for men that emerged from 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 to solve the persistent call for nationalism. However, this did not go without some criticisms from literary circles. Levine and Krupat observed that the criticisms resulted from a mounting Abolitionist Movement, which called for a more multicultural American identity. This movement was spearheaded by Emerson, among others (454). Therefore, this group made America recognized as a melting pot of cultures.
In the early 19th century, thus, Americans were still grappling with the conflicting identity crisis. There was a call for something new to offer direction to a fundamentally stable future.

*Whitman and Emerson*

One of the major sources of inspiration for Whitman was Emerson, and his writings deeply influenced Whitman. By requesting Emerson to separate the old world from the new world, Whitman felt the need to answer the call of Emerson for a new American scholar. Matterson stated that “The Poet” would steer America into a new era and diminish the influence of the Europeans (VII-VIII).
There was a genuine interest by Whitman in his country. This made him get engaged with current American events, attend many public rallies, and keep 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 definition of self-reliance and personal abolitionist opinions (Killingsworth, 15). For a long time, Emerson had argued for more Romantic connections in the literary arena, and this belief helped shape his appearances in public politics. This speech’s influence could later be seen in the 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 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, the influence of Emerson’s words and his calling for an American scholar and acknowledgment gave Whitman the courage to push the borders of literature and “purse how to own deepest insights” (22).


In “*Leaves of Grass*,” the historical aspects also need to be placed into structural, social, and historical contexts for clarity. This paper will refer to aesthetics as structural aspects, subject matter, Form, and theme of poetry. Aesthetic is core since Whitman’s poetry answered Emerson’s call for a new poetry form that is innovative. Hence, it is important to analyze the poetry’s new aspects in “*Leaves of Grass*” to 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 and 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 most 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 from other’s subject matter to 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” became controversial to becoming very common in Romantic poetry. The Romantic movement was represented ably by Wordsworth as he personified the new “I” contemporary in all his work. Moreover, he showed more commercial poetry that appealed 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 to poetry which took the experimental “I” Form and a prose form from that moment, moving forward (15).
In the “Song of Myself,” the first line is “I celebrate myself” (23), and he introduced the perspective of a first-person unequivocally. However, “I” Whitman takes many forms. It can be read as representing the soul and body; in this case, the poet’s soul and body are 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” is 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 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 how Whitman’s “I” has many definitions. The “*Leaves of Grass*’” and “I” also support the development of individualism by Whitman as it, through its continuous change, becomes a representation of all eh Americans and, through that, is a representation of the American soul. Therefore, in the first person “I,” 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 most innovative aspects was its Form of poetry. This absence of visible structure today is called a free form of poetry and is composed of stanzas shaped individually. Griffith asserted that, generally, Whitman is regarded as the first free verse poetry practitioner in modern times (159). However, it is important to note that during that time, “*Leaves of Grass*” was regarded as lacking any form of poetry, and this is the biggest subject in most 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 a poem’s textual writings indicates a new stanza. A stichic verse is not divided into stanzas. This distinguishes prose from poetry, which is related to the line’s length. In prose, the line will be continuous to the end, while in poetry, the line is broken (Fry, 347). The Rhyme schemes can be subtler, more obvious, easy, or more complex. Besides the regular end rhymes, the rich rhymes sound the same: nose/knows and heard/beard and eye rhymes that only look the same. However, various slant-rhymes exist in vowels repeated by assonance: kiss/pit, full or partial consonance repeating the consonants: wild/weld and gulls/coils (Fry, 168). Perhaps the most vital poetry aspect before the Romantic Period was the intricate application of 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).
Until the late 1700s and early 1800s, the structure of poems had been static relatively in the sonnet form. There is a long history of sonnets dating back to Italy in the 13th century when Francesco Petrarca finally invested in the Petrarchan sonnet. It had the greatest poetry influence in Europe. Fry indicated that poetry during the Renaissance literature was defined by the complex order of linguistics formed by an increasing number of various rhetorical devices (281-282). Therefore, from a structural perspective, there was little room for individualism, and the emphasis was not always on the author but on the subject matter.
While Petrarchan Lover was a subject matter common in the sonnet, the most common theme was love in Renaissance literature and other theological subjects. Even though it contained smiles and metaphors, the Romantic Period’s sonnet was not as tricky and complex to decipher as the older masters of poems like Shakespeare. The sonnet is one stanza comprising fourteen lines of the particular rhyme-schemes pattern. However, the free Form of poetry does not have any stringent rules. The poet must create a pattern of lineated rhymes, meter, stanzas, and Form. Therefore, Fry stated that what might appear lacking in any form is more likely to be conscious of the poet or her aesthetic approach (175-176).
It is evident that the poetic structure of Whitman greatly differs from contemporaneous traditional poetry, for instance, in the sonnet. Nevertheless, it does not lack poetic Form or structure. It cannot be disputed that Walt Whitman put great effort into using the traditional framework and rhetorical devices as a literary basis in his writing. But, he changed his poetic Form 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 of Walt Whitman, his criticisms, his admiration of the aesthetics of “*Leaves of Grass*” and his 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 is currently 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 refer to the drastic shift in a poetic form introduced in 1855 in “*Leaves of Grass*.” Moreover, Matterson even refers to the “*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 of “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 peculiar language and aesthetics is the fundamental reason why the breach between America and Europe, alongside the calling for a 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*” which was free-form poetry and was considered innovative.
Edlund also pointed out that the correspondence between Emerson and Whitman boosted their confidence in Whitman as a poet (12). Emerson acknowledged the attempts made by Whitman to become an 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 also agrees, arguing that Ralph Emerson must have been “flattered by his influence on the book that was obvious” (105). Meyer also discusses this topic as he quotes the initial sentence of Emerson in the correspondence 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 changed his attitude regarding Whitman because of Walt Whitman’s compulsive need for more good reviews. However, the admission of Emerson Whitman does not go unnoticed by Emerson himself during that time or the contemporary critics.
According to Killingsworth, Emerson’s positive review of the book “*Leaves of Grass*” made it possible for Walt to create a relationship with other Transcendentalists. Thoreau and Alcott thought that the new Form of literature was different; however, they acknowledged the poetic depth of Whitman in contextualizing some of the transcendentalist 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, today’s contemporary critics tend to acknowledge the poem collection “*Leaves of Grass*” as a transcendentalist movement text, at least in its first edition. Thoreau demonstrates an understanding of their attempts of Whitman in presenting a new poetic approach that is innovative when he states 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 it, and even the public was not friendly. Killingsworth noted that the public reviews of “*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 to change the hostility against the book (vii). He further acknowledges the attempts by Whitman in helping in contextualizing his work. He further argued that the reviews written by Whitman should be seen as important and helpful in understanding his aesthetics instead of just self-promotion (Matterson, VII). Matterson further argued that their 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 diversity.” Matterson calls Whitman’s declaration his personal view of democracy as it shows his thoughts of Whitman accepting a multitude within a nation and within oneself (IX). It is a belief held Matterson that the published contemporaneous reviews of Whitman’s first edition of the book “*Leaves of Grass*” acts as a framework for the expectations of the poet in America during that time.

On the other hand, Meyer also debated Whitman’s tendency to focus on minor details. He suggested that the hyper-visualization of Whitman might have been the reason for their 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 to help the public to understand also was 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). Matterson also considered the overburdened, incorrect, and bold Form to have a provocative intent and a thought-provoking primary. 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 to comprehend Whitman’s poetic style since he possesses more of a democratic aesthetic, Walt attempted to assert “full equality of things and people” (X). therefore, today’s critics seem to agree that “*Leaves of Grass*’” aesthetics served another purpose rather than being the trademark of a new bard of America. That is, Whitman also wanted to question the sociopolitical issues.
Whitman’s innovative and bold Form met with many criticisms in modern times and the 1800s. However, these aspects that were groundbreaking placed it in America’s literary canons. Most contemporary critics agree that “*Leaves of Grass*’” free-form displays individualism which 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).
Walt Whitman changed all these. 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 is that an ideal American poet did not identify with Europe, its society, its 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 calling 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 acquired the popular culture feel and, to some extent, marketing. Consequently, this would result in his ultimate demonstration of panache, which is the promotion of his personal work.
Upon the unveiling of *Leaves of Grass*, Allison pointed out that Whitman sent complimentary copies to many prominent literary figures. This is currently a common tactic for promotion, but it was a very rare boldness move back that time. However, when he received a favorable response from Ralph Waldo Emerson from the copy he sent him, Whitman went to great lengths by publishing Emerson’s response in the New York Daily Times without permission from Emerson. Moreover, he published his own work’s reviews anonymously in many newspapers. Praise for Walt Whitman was in abundance from many quarters (1).
However, all Whitman and his Form of poetry were not received well. Many also considered his poetry obscene, and he was frequently perceived as arrogant beyond the limit. When it came out that several reviews were self-written and published by Whitman, many people were not pleased. Furthermore, the sixth edition of his poetry, *Leaves of Grass*, 1882 was prohibited from publishing in Boston City based on obscenity. However, perhaps because of, or despite all the controversies surrounding Whitman, Allison observed that Walt Whitman achieved a feat that most authors and poets do not. He lived to see his literary works gain fame and 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 contemporary poetry in North America is so huge that it has been said that there is a division in American poetry into two major camps. One camp naturally flows and believes in Whitman, and another consciously strives not to 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, 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 plays by several 20th-century poets such as 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 ranging 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 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 this endless debate with Whitman is 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 Whitman’s radical poetics as essentially intertwined with the national character, a distinctive and distinctly 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 Whitman’s work plays the recurring central role, and in several recent ads which include those for Levi’s, iPad, and Audi (McGarvey and McGarvey, 1). Moreover, over 500 composers, including Ned Rorem and Charles Ives, have set Walt Whitman to music. 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, which featured excerpts of “*Leaves of Grass*” and “Song of Myself.”
Many famous figures and renowned poets found inspiration from reading Walt Whitman’s poetry. Several American writers cite Walt as a source of inspiration for their work by showing admiration for the controversial themes he often addressed and his groundbreaking structural innovations. One of the founders of the Transcendentalist movement, Ralph Waldo Emerson, in a letter in 1855 to Whitman, 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 poets, Ezra Pound, penned a poem called “the Pact,” with the main subject being Walt Whitman. Even though 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 was initially very vocal about his dislike of the rugged style of Whitman’s poetry. However, In the “Pact,” Ezra Pound admitted that Whitman influenced him and Whitman also paved his career path. 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 the 19th century, Bram Stoker, a gothic novelist in his ground-breaking novel called Dracula, modeled 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 significantly influenced the early work of Allen Ginsberg, a 20th-century poet. In his poem “A Supermarket in California,” Allen addressed it to Whitman (n.a, 1).


In conclusion, the paper discussed how Walt Whitman’s *Leaves of Grass* influenced later movements in American literature. The paper found that the first edition published in 1855 of the book “*Leaves of Grass*” responded to the contemporary request for national identity in America and within the literary circles’ search for their American style. Therefore, it can be argued that it was a declaration of literary independence in America. The contextualization of Whitman’s poetry serves as a preparation for the American new and unfamiliar poetic experience and 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 to embody the American soul in his representation of “I. “It is everyone he met, himself, and everybody who reads 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; to the contrary, it contained rhetorical devices that were well thought through. However, in Whitman’s poetry, he let the subject matter control the Form, unlike the traditional poems where the subject matter was controlled by forms, particularly in the word choices. Even though sometimes Whitman’s “I” seemed ambiguous, it displayed aesthetic development that was later seen in Realism. In most instances, various perspectives were presented to ensure the best reality presentation.
The paper also discussed some contemporary critical reviews of “*Leaves of Grass*,” how Whitman changed the poetry world and his influence on writers and readers.

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