The First Modern American Poet Essay by writingsensation

The First Modern American Poet
A study of the life and legacy of poet Walt Whitman.
# 68155 | 2,600 words | 14 sources | MLA | 2006 | US
Published on Aug 06, 2006 in Literature (American) , Literature (Poetry)

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This paper studies the American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892), one of the first to embrace uniquely American themes, styles and literary concerns. This paper examines Whitman's unique poetic voice and personal philosophy of poetry in order to show how Whitman established the first uniquely American voice within poetry, one separate from the mostly pre-Victorian and Victorian-inspired poetic styles, forms and themes of earlier American poets. The paper also explicates two sets of Whitman's free-verse poems: (1) Three of his earliest poems from "Leaves of Grass" (1855) and (2) four of his later Civil War poems, written from 1861-1865. Together these poems demonstrate how far Whitman had moved beyond British influence, to become the great innovator of modern American poetry.

From the Paper:

"Within America before the Civil War, American literature most often closely imitated writing styles, tones and even thematic concerns of both past and present British authors. Before the poetry of Whitman in particular, American poets like Bradstreet, Taylor, Bryant, Wheatley, and others adopted British verse forms and other poetic conventions, shaping them to their own artistic voices and concerns within the New World. In several of Puritan poet Anne Bradstreet's poems that were either to or about her husband or children for example, Bradstreet closely imitated the metaphysical style of John Donne. The expansive, flowing, and exuberant free-verse works of Walt Whitman, which did none of that, may therefore be considered the first truly American poetry, reflecting, as it does, influences, moods, concerns, ways of expression, and social and political movements within American itself, and nowhere else, with a new and unique style and forms."

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