Walt Whitman changed the voice of poetry. He sought to create “a new gospel of beauty”: an American voice. He escaped the Classic Structures demanded of verse, and gave us the free form voice that has become standard today.
Within Walt Whitman’s story, one may find a parallel to the story of America. He was born and raised on Long Island, NY, when Brooklyn was but a village. As Whitman grew, so too did Brooklyn, becoming one of the largest cities in America during his lifetime. Throughout America many areas experienced a rapid period of growth and transformation from rural to urban and industrial. The nation was undergoing a process of re-definition and understanding and Whitman was a man of the times. He was a newspaper man and poet fully engaged in learning about and defining himself.
His work influenced the beat movement and its leaders such as Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg, anti-war poets and even Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Whitman served as a volunteer in military hospitals during the civil war and mourned with the nation at the assassination of President Lincoln with the well-known “Captain, oh my Captain.”
The last chapter of his life took place in the hard working town of Camden, NJ and his refuge in nature at the Stafford Farm and Timber Creek as the “Good Grey Poet”.