Walt Whitman

Nominated by the Poet Populist organizers as our 2008-2009 sample candidate

Walter Whitman (May 31, 1819 – March 26, 1892) was an American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist. He was a part of the transition between Transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse. His work was very controversial in its time, particularly his poetry collection Leaves of Grass, which was described as obscene for its overt sexuality.

Born on Long Island, Whitman worked as a journalist, a teacher, a government clerk, and a volunteer nurse during the American Civil War in addition to publishing his poetry. Early in his career, 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.


I Hear America Singing

1. AMERICAN mouth-songs !

Those of mechanics — each one singing his, as it
	should be, blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank
	or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work,
	or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat
	— the deck-hand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench — the
	hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song — the ploughboy’s, on his way
	in the morning, or at noon intermission, or at
The delicious singing of the mother — or of the
	young wife at work — or the girl sewing
	or washing — Each singing what belongs to her,
	and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day — At night, the
	party of young fellows, robust, friendly, clean-
	blooded, singing with melodious voices, melodious thoughts.
2. Come ! some of you ! Still be flooding The States
	with hundreds and thousands of mouth-songs,
	fit for The States only.

The original version of this poem was number 20 in the section Chants Democratic in the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass, and can be found in:
Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass. Boston: Thayer and Eldridge, 1860. (as found in the facsimile edition printed Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1961) or at http://www.whitmanarchive.org/published/LG/1860/clusters/3.

Whitman Poem Whitman Poem

Browse through all the nominated poets: