New York, 14 April, ; died in Washington, D.
Talking Back to Whitman Family Origins Walt Whitman, arguably America's most influential and innovative poet, was born into a working class family in West Hills on Long Island, on May 31,just thirty years after George Washington was inaugurated as the first president of the newly formed United States.
Walt Whitman was named after his father, a carpenter and farmer who was 34 years old when Whitman was born. Trained as a carpenter but struggling to find work, he had taken up farming by the time Walt was born, but when Walt was just about to turn four, Walter Sr.
One of Walt's favorite stories about his childhood concerned the time General Lafayette visited New York and, selecting the six-year-old Walt from the crowd, lifted him up and carried him. Whitman later came to view this event as a kind of laying on of hands, the French hero of the American Revolution anointing the future poet of democracy in the energetic city of immigrants, where the new nation was being invented day by day.
Walt Whitman is thus of the first generation of Americans who were born in the newly formed United States and grew up assuming the stable existence of the new country.
Pride in the emergent nation was rampant, and Walter Sr. Only the youngest son, Edwardwho was mentally and physically handicapped, carried a name that tied him to neither the family's nor the country's history. Whitman's father was a stern and sometimes hot-tempered man, maybe an alcoholic, whom Whitman respected but for whom he never felt a great deal of affection.
His mother, on the other hand, served throughout his life as his emotional touchstone. There was a special affectional bond between Whitman and his mother, and the long correspondence between them records a kind of partnership in attempting to deal with the family crises that mounted over the years, as Jesse became mentally unstable and violent and eventually had to be institutionalized, as Hannah entered a disastrous marriage with an abusive husband, as Andrew became an alcoholic and married a prostitute before dying of ill health in his 30s, and as Edward required increasingly dedicated care.
Walt loved living close to the East River, where as a child he rode the ferries back and forth to New York Cityimbibing an experience that would remain significant for him his whole life: The act of crossing became, for Whitman, one of the most evocative events in his life—at once practical, enjoyable, and mystical.
The daily commute suggested the passage from life to death to life again and suggested too the passage from poet to reader to poet via the vehicle of the poem.
By crossing Brooklyn ferry, Whitman first discovered the magical commutations that he would eventually accomplish in his poetry.
While in Brooklyn, Whitman attended the newly founded Brooklyn public schools for six years, sharing his classes with students of a variety of ages and backgrounds, though most were poor, since children from wealthy families attended private schools.
In Whitman's school, all the students were in the same room, except African Americans, who had to attend a separate class on the top floor. Whitman had little to say about his rudimentary formal schooling, except that he hated corporal punishment, a common practice in schools and one that he would attack in later years in both his journalism and his fiction.
But most of Whitman's meaningful education came outside of school, when he visited museums, went to libraries, and attended lectures. He always recalled the first great lecture he heard, when he was ten years old, given by the radical Quaker leader Elias Hicks, an acquaintance of Whitman's father and a close friend of Whitman's grandfather Jesse.
While Whitman's parents were not members of any religious denomination, Quaker thought always played a major role in Whitman's life, in part because of the early influence of Hicks, and in part because his mother Louisa's family had a Quaker background, especially Whitman's grandmother Amy Williams Van Velsorwhose death—the same year Whitman first heard Hicks—hit young Walt hard, since he had spent many happy days at the farm of his grandmother and colorful grandfather, Major Cornelius Van Velsor.
Visiting his grandparents on Long Island was one of Whitman's favorite boyhood activities, and during those visits he developed his lifelong love of the Long Island shore, sensing the mystery of that territory where water meets land, fluid melds with solid.
One of Whitman's greatest poems, "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking," is on one level a reminiscence of his boyhood on the Long Island shore and of how his desire to be a poet arose in that landscape.
The idyllic Long Island countryside formed a sharp contrast to the crowded energy of the quickly growing Brooklyn-New York City urban center. Whitman's experiences as a young man alternated between the city and the Long Island countryside, and he was attracted to both ways of life.
This dual allegiance can be traced in his poetry, which is often marked by shifts between rural and urban settings. Self-Education and First Career By the age of eleven, Whitman was done with his formal education by this time he had far more schooling than either of his parents had receivedand he began his life as a laborer, working first as an office boy for some prominent Brooklyn lawyers, who gave him a subscription to a circulating library, where his self-education began.
Always an autodidact, Whitman absorbed an eclectic but wide-ranging education through his visits to museums, his nonstop reading, and his penchant for engaging everyone he met in conversation and debate.
While most other major writers of his time enjoyed highly structured, classical educations at private institutions, Whitman forged his own rough and informal curriculum of literature, theater, history, geography, music, and archeology out of the developing public resources of America's fastest growing city.
InWhitman became an apprentice on the Long Island Patriot, a liberal, working-class newspaper, where he learned the printing trade and was first exposed to the excitement of putting words into print, observing how thought and event could be quickly transformed into language and immediately communicated to thousands of readers.
At the age of twelve, young Walt was already contributing to the newspaper and experiencing the exhilaration of getting his own words published. Whitman's first signed article, in the upscale New York Mirror inexpressed his amazement at how there were still people alive who could remember "the present great metropolitan city as a little dorp or village; all fresh and green as it was, from its beginning," and he wrote of a slave, "Negro Harry," who had died in at age and who could remember New York "when there were but three houses in it.
Living away from home—the rest of his family moved back to the West Hills area inleaving fourteen-year-old Walt alone in the city—and learning how to set type under the Patriot's foreman printer William Hartshorne, Whitman was gaining skills and experiencing an independence that would mark his whole career: These early years on his own in Brooklyn and New York remained a formative influence on his writing, for it was during this time that he developed the habit of close observation of the ever-shifting panorama of the city, and a great deal of his journalism, poetry, and prose came to focus on catalogs of urban life and the history of New York City, Brooklyn, and Long Island.
Walt's brother Thomas Jeffersonknown to everyone in the family as "Jeff," was born during the summer ofsoon after his family had resettled on a farm and only weeks after Walt had joined the crowds in Brooklyn that warmly welcomed the newly re-elected president, Andrew Jackson.
Brother Jeff, fourteen years younger than Walt, would become the sibling he felt closest to, their bond formed when they traveled together to New Orleans inwhen Jeff was about the same age as Walt was when Jeff was born.
But while Jeff was a young child, Whitman spent little time with him. Walt remained separated from his family and furthered his education by absorbing the power of language from a variety of sources: By the time he was sixteen, Walt was a journeyman printer and compositor in New York City. His future career seemed set in the newspaper and printing trades, but then two of New York's worst fires wiped out the major printing and business centers of the city, and, in the midst of a dismal financial climate, Whitman retreated to rural Long Island, joining his family at Hempstead in As he turned 17, the five-year veteran of the printing trade was already on the verge of a career change.
Schoolteaching Years His unlikely next career was that of a teacher. Although his own formal education was, by today's standards, minimal, he had developed as a newspaper apprentice the skills of reading and writing, more than enough for the kind of teaching he would find himself doing over the next few years.
He knew he did not want to become a farmer, and he rebelled at his father's attempts to get him to work on the new family farm. Teaching was therefore an escape but was also clearly a job he was forced to take in bad economic times, and some of the unhappiest times of his life were these five years when he taught school in at least ten different Long Island towns, rooming in the homes of his students, teaching three-month terms to large and heterogeneous classes some with over eighty students, ranging in age from five to fifteen, for up to nine hours a daygetting very little pay, and having to put up with some very unenlightened people.Stafford isn't trying to sneak anything past you with this one.
The car is a car, the road is a road, the deer is a deer. But don't ignore the scenery just because this is base camp.
In his essay “Civil Disobedience," Henry David Thoreau opens by saying, “I heartily accept the motto, ‘That government is best which governs least’" (), and then clarifies that his true belief is “‘That government is best which governs not at all’" ().
Sheikha A. is from Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. Her work appears in over literary venues, both print and online, and several anthologies by different presses.
|Pulitzer Prize First Edition Collecting Guide - Prediction||Online College Education is now free! Analysis Critique Overview Below It represents nature and industrialism.|
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By William E. Stafford About this Poet "If you have been wondering where the articulate, readable poems have gone in the last third of the 20th century, you might start with [William] Stafford," declares Victor Howes of the Christian Science Monitor.
The theme of William Stafford's "Traveling Through the Dark," dramatizes the difficulty of having to make a life and death decision. The poem displays in five unriming stanzas. The first four stanzas feature four lines each, while the final stanza offers only two lines. "Traveling through the Dark," in particular, is a poem that really does tell a story in a plain-spoken, direct way.
Even you poetry-haters out there might just find something to like in this one. The action all takes place on a mountain road at night.