It has been 200 years since the birth of Walt Whitman. Why is Walt Whitman so important? If you read poetry, he is considered one of America’s most important poets…in the same class as Emily Dickinson.
A recent article in the New Yorker talks about his life and his work. The son of a house builder, Walt Whitman started as a printer’s apprentice, to become a journalist, a teacher and a government clerk.
“At age 11, he left formal schooling to go to work. As a child and through much of his career he resided in Brooklyn, he also produced a temperance novel, Franklin Evans (1842). Whitman’s major work, Leaves of Grass, was first published in 1855 with his own money. The work was an attempt at reaching out to the common person with an American epic. He continued expanding and revising it until his death in 1892. During the American Civil War, he went to Washington, D.C. and worked in hospitals caring for the wounded. His poetry often focused on both loss and healing. Two of his well known poems, O Captain! My Captain! and When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d, were written on the death of Abraham Lincoln. After a stroke towards the end of his life, Whitman moved to Camden, New Jersey, where his health further declined. When he died at age 72, his funeral was a public event.” – Wikipedia
Walt Whitman has been compared to Homer, Virgil, Dante and Shakespeare. He is best known for his work, Leaves of Grass (1855, 1891-2).
What better way to celebrate his life and work than to create your own poem? Here is mine (entitled “The Joust”), set to pen in 1987.