TimestampNameWhereIf you had to describe Whitman using three adjectives, what would it be and why? Is it just the quality or aesthetics of the poetry that you are affected by, or is there something about the man himself (such as his political philosophy)?Do you have a favorite passage or line in Whitman's work? Why?Did you study Whitman in high school? If not, what was the first time you came across him? In both cases, what works did you study?Q4
11/23/2009 21:24:26Janet HawtinAdelaide, South Australia, Australiapassionate,
systemic: looks at the systems of stars, ecologies, man in context
I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.
11/24/2009 12:24:00Leslie Madsen-BrooksDavis, CA USAEffusive, encompassing, generous

I don't remember much about Whitman's biography, though I do remember he volunteered as a nurse during the civil war. So: mostly his poetry, both in content and form.
Oh, there are so many. For now let's go with this one from "When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d":

In the door-yard fronting an old farm-house, near the white-wash’d palings,
Stands the lilac bush, tall-growing, with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom, rising, delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle......and from this bush in the door-yard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms, and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig, with its flower, I break.

For me, this stanza is really about the last line. It takes a lot of breath to read aloud those first five lines, or a lot of intellectual energy to hold them in mind if I'm reading silently, thanks to all the adjectives and prepositional phrases. But after all that description, we get not only that very simple last line--"a spring, with its flower, I break"--but even more importantly those last two words: I break, which so nicely sums up for me the poet's feelings about the death of Lincoln.
Yes. We read much of _Leaves of Grass_ in high school, and much of it again in college.

In a couple of my American lit classes in college, the professors borrowed a first edition of Leaves of Grass from the college's special collections, and we were allowed to handle the book--without gloves! (Archivists, avert your eyes!) The professors told us that because Whitman had a hand in the production and distribution of these books, chances are he held it himself. It was a beautiful book--an embossed floral motif and gold lettering on a deep green cover--and I think Whitman would have enjoyed seeing us have direct contact with it. You can pick up a copy here -- -- for only $175,000. :)
11/24/2009 12:27:55Billie HaraCorpus Christi, TX"I am large, I contain multitudes."
"I am the teacher of athletes."
High school? No.
College, Yes. "Song of Myself" and a few other poems.
Later, on my own, I studied his complete works.
11/24/2009 13:52:07Thalia CadyWestfield, MA, USAaesthete (OK it's a noun -- sue me. )

I cannot divide the poetry from the man himself. That would be impossible.
I Sing the Body Electric

It surprises and moves me every time I read it.
yes -- probably "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed"
11/24/2009 15:26:31Neva S. TrenisFredericksburg, Va., USAgenuine, wise, compassionate -- I've come to think that first I love the man himself and then his writing. Though w/o his writing I never would have "met" the man. He tends not to judge but to describe humans; he acknowledges that he is we, and I am you. No one escapes the pleasure, the pain, the fallibility, the fragile nature that is life incarnate.There is so much of his writing that I love, but this section of "Song of Myself" especially moves me. The whole poem has helped me love more, but perhaps this the most. Imagine life if we celebrated the victory that is merely showing up each day, fighting the good fight, even if in the end we fail?

With music strong I come, with my cornets and my drums,
I play not marches for accepted victors only, I play marches for
conquer'd and slain persons.

Have you heard that it was good to gain the day?
I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit
in which they are won.

I beat and pound for the dead,
I blow through my embouchures my loudest and gayest for them.

Vivas to those who have fail'd!
And to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea!
And to those themselves who sank in the sea!
And to all generals that lost engagements, and all overcome heroes!
And the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes
I didn't study Whitman in high school or college except for the lone passage here and there. How very sad for me!

I lived near Boulder, Colo. in 1981. Allen Ginsberg frequently read in bars there. A fan of "Howl," I went to hear him whenever possible. I heard him read "A Supermarket in California" and was so intrigued:

"I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the
meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price
bananas? Are you my Angel?"

(BTW, Ginsberg also led me to William Blake.)

So, dear ones, life led me to Walt Whitman. Later, when I moved to Fredericksburg, a trip to the Chatham led me to his Civil War diaries, which taught me about the very place I was raised, and in a way that no class ever did or could. I owe the man a debt if for nothing else the education and insight he has given me.

11/25/2009 9:32:44Deborah BlicherSudbury, MA United StatesOptimistic
I don't think I do. Different passages have struck me differently as I have grown older. I wasn't taught him in h.s. but I read him anyway, anything i could get my hands on.
11/25/2009 22:02:53Debbie SeidellCambridge, MA, USARebel. Deep. In touch with the infinite. Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large and contain multitudes.

I like it b/c it gives me permission to be large too.
Never read him in HS. Came across a book on sale for $3, so I figured I should learn something about him and bought it. Can't remember what it was - and I never studied it, just glanced through from time to time.
11/30/2009 13:54:13Mikhail GershovichNY, NY, USAbearded exuberant reflectiveLove Leaves of Grass. Very evocative. Love how it evolved over time.No, first read Whitman in college.
12/1/2009 22:34:02Shelley KrausePrinceton, NJ USAopen, game-changing, mystical

Probably a combination of both his poetry and the way he seems to me as a person.
LOVE "A Noiseless, Patient Spider" ... such a powerful and positive evocation of our place in the universe

Love lots more, too, but it's been many years since I read Whitman regularly.
Yes. Leaves of Grass, primarily, I think.
Galang WijayaIndonesiahe's huge!he belongs to America.that's why I love America,his America! but here in Indonesia,I just feel that he breathes and blesses the same air I breathe. it is not soft, it is heavy and heavier, but not so heavy.he has an art to deal with that. he loves what I love he loves what I hate.he loves you America , Starting from Paumanok! God bless America!
Timothy DeLisleProvidence, RI, USAHonestly. I don't think Whitman's wisdom plays much of a part in society today at all. The world at large doesn't have time for enlightening. Oh sure the intellectuals do. But are they really the majority? Whitman's recipe of 1 part Hedonism, 2 parts self-awareness, and a pinch of environmentalism is a utopian idea that could very well save the world, had the world not gone and got itself in such a hurry. Those of us that see the true beauty in what he said are would - be day dreamers
Elena Rederer BermejoGermanyMágico cuando lo leí por primera vez. Para mí fue como si Whitman hubiese encontrado la forma de comunicarse con el lector (en este caso conmigo) a través del tiempo. Nunca lo olvidaré. Es como si él hubiera alargado su mano en los siglos, y yo sólo tuve que alargar la mía y tocar aquella que había estado allí esperando tanto tiempo, pero no por eso era menos real.

He encontrado este ?anhelo de inmortalidad y deseo de comunicación con el futuro lector no nacido? en otros autores, pero para mí no ha sido nunca tan emocionante como en este caso.

Magical when I first read it. For me it was as if Whitman had found a way to communicate with the reader (in this case me) over time. I'll never forget. It is as if he had extended his hand in the centuries, and I only had to lengthen mine and touch that he had been there waiting so long, but not less real.

I found this longing for immortality and a desire to communicate with the unborn future reader in others, but for me it has never been as exciting as in this case.
Annie MacPhersonKnoxville, TN, USAWalt is a kindred spirit. I feel his presence and grace. "as good as looking at you now, for all those who cannot see me". He is a faithful companion and friend. When I immerse myself in his poetry, he is conjured into the present.
Neemo Neem (username)New Jersey, USAWhitman is, in my opinion, America's most-controversial poet, but I absolutely love his work. As I read it, the scenes and metaphors are so clear; he reminds me of a travel minstrel with a banjo going from town to town to sing his songs. However, when I read his poetry, I can't help but notice some odd things.

1. Total absence of rhyme. Rhyme can get annoying, but I think Whitman's absence of rhyme makes his poetry surreal, almost dreamlike.

2. Sexual connotations. Many of his poems seem perverted, but I do notice a Shakespearean influence. Many believe that he was gay, and this is evidenced in his poem, "I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing."

3. Odd sentence structure, sort of like the Modernists.

4. His use of Lincoln as a metaphor.
As I ebb'd with the ocean of life,
As I wended the shores I know,
As I walk'd where the ripples continually wash you Paumanok,
Where they rustle up hoarse and sibilant,
Where the fierce old mother endlessly cries for her castaways,
I musing late in the autumn day, gazing off southward,
Held by this electric self out of the pride of which I utter poems,
Was seiz'd by the spirit that trails in the lines underfoot,
The rim, the sediment that stands for all the water and all the land
of the globe.

Fascinated, my eyes reverting from the south, dropt, to follow those
slender windrows,
Chaff, straw, splinters of wood, weeds, and the sea-gluten,
Scum, scales from shining rocks, leaves of salt-lettuce, left by the
Miles walking, the sound of breaking waves the other side of me,
Paumanok there and then as I thought the old thought of likenesses,
These you presented to me you fish-shaped island,
As I wended the shores I know,
As I walk'd with that electric self seeking types.

As I wend to the shores I know not,
As I list to the dirge, the voices of men and women wreck'd,
As I inhale the impalpable breezes that set in upon me,
As the ocean so mysterious rolls toward me closer and closer,
I too but signify at the utmost a little wash'd-up drift,
A few sands and dead leaves to gather,
Gather, and merge myself as part of the sands and drift.

O baffled, balk'd, bent to the very earth,
Oppress'd with myself that I have dared to open my mouth,
Aware now that amid all that blab whose echoes recoil upon me I have
not once had the least idea who or what I am,
But that before all my arrogant poems the real Me stands yet
untouch'd, untold, altogether unreach'd,
Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congratulatory signs and bows,
With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word I have
Pointing in silence to these songs, and then to the sand beneath.


The best of the earth cannot be told anyhow, all or any is best,
It is not what you anticipated, it is cheaper, easier, nearer,
Things are not dismiss'd from the places they held before,
The earth is just as positive and direct as it was before,
Facts, religions, improvements, politics, trades, are as real as
But the soul is also real, it too is positive and direct,
No reasoning, no proof has establish'd it,
Undeniable growth has establish'd it.

These to echo the tones of souls and the phrases of souls,
(If they did not echo the phrases of souls what were they then?
If they had not reference to you in especial what were they then?)

I swear I will never henceforth have to do with the faith that tells
the best,
I will have to do only with that faith that leaves the best untold.

Say on, sayers! sing on, singers!
Delve! mould! pile the words of the earth!
Work on, age after age, nothing is to be lost,
It may have to wait long, but it will certainly come in use,
When the materials are all prepared and ready, the architects shall

I swear to you the architects shall appear without fall,
I swear to you they will understand you and justify you,
The greatest among them shall be he who best knows you, and encloses
all and is faithful to all,
He and the rest shall not forget you, they shall perceive that you
are not an iota less than they,
You shall be fully glorified in them.
Whitman himself is a poem. As is said by Longinus, "sublimity is the echo of a great soul," Whitman writes his poems with his life not only his pen. Please remember that he tended those wounded soldiers just like brothers when he was not required to do so.
Whitman's Poems are vehement in passion.
Josip BalazevicNovi Sad, Serbiademocrat, egocentric, Romantic;First of all, it was the form of his lines which built up to a love for the aesthetics of his poetry. His philosophy on human rights is very close to my views. I think of him as a combination of a nationalist and a feminine figure. He is definitely in love with his country and expresses it through his poetry, but unlike other male poets of the time he shows his feminine side.The following lines are my favorite because of the portrayal of a racial battle ongoing in the antebellum period:

“I saw the marriage of the trapper in the open air in the far-west . . . . the bride was a red girl,
Her father and his friends sat nearby crosslegged and dumbly smoking . . . . they
had moccasins to their feet and large thick blankets hanging from their
On a bank lounged the trapper . . . . he was dressed mostly in skins . . . . his luxuriant
beard and curls protected his neck,
One hand rested on his rifle . . . . the other hand held firmly the wrist of the red girl,
She had long eyelashes . . . . her head was bare . . . . her coarse straight locks
descended upon her voluptuous limbs and reached to her feet.
The runaway slave came to my house and stopped outside,
I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile,
Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsey and weak,
And went where he sat on a log, and led him in and assured him,
And brought water and filled a tub for his sweated body and bruised feet,
And gave him a room that entered from my own, and gave him some coarse clean
And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and his awkwardness,
And remember putting plasters on the galls of his neck and ankles;
He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and passed north,
I had him sit next me at table . . . . my firelock leaned in the corner.”
Although there are many sections in the poem that are just breathtaking, I chose this passage from the 1855 version of “Leaves of Grass” as my favorite. Walt Whitman is, in my humble opinion, one of the few poets that succeeds in portraying the exact image to his readers. While reading this passage about the marriage of a trapper and a red girl and the story about the runaway slave, I was more than astonished by the scenes that seemed to happen right in front of me.
At the time when the poem was written there were many talks and debates concerning tolerance, slavery, equality etc. These two scenes show Whitman’s stance on the matter, and very well draw a pretty precise sketch of my opinion on these antebellum problems.
I studied Whitman at my American Lit survey course.
Elma Lena PorobicNovi Sad, SerbiaAfter having discussed the phrenological term “adhesiveness” this Saturday during our class, used to refer to the attachment between men, the word “comrade” caught my attention while I was reading “In Paths Untrodden” from the “Calamus” cluster. “Adhesiveness” and “comrade” evoke at first “sticky or gluey” and “a companion or a member of the Communist Party”, respectively, however both bearing a hidden connotation. Notably, taking into consideration that “Calamus” takes its name from an herb with pointy, narrow leaves which shape is suggestive of an erect phallus, that the poems in the “Calamus” cluster are held together by the sentiment of “male bonding” or “manly attachment”, that the title of this poem is very suggestive (”paths untrodden”), we start seeing the word “comrade” in a different light. Isn’t it beautiful to reveal layer by layer all what words comprise? I looked up the word “comrade” and this is what I found:
1. Middle French camarade group of soldiers sleeping in one room, roommate, companion;
2. One that shares the same sleeping quarters as another;
2.a. One that shares the same fortunes or experiences as another: intimate friend;
2.b. Companion
2.c. Comrade-in-arms (his fallen comrades)
3. Communist

I was intrigued by an image denoting something military, obedient to rules and commands, a strict pro-regime system, but also denoting love, intimacy, devotion, affection and sharing, all along paths untrodden, forbidden, disdained and unaccepted.
12/4/2009 6:23:05Ryan HouckDoha, QatarContradicting, praising, and idealistic.
His aesthetic, thematic, and optimistic qualities most affect me. I enjoy the optimism for life/the country in his early years then his later passion for Lincoln after the war. These pervade his poetry and thus I struggle to objectively separate the poetry from the man. At the end of his days as the good gray poet, he contradicted himself often just as Leaves of Grass embraced contradictions.
"Shall I postpone my acceptation and scream at my eyes, that they turn from gazing after and down the road."

I like how we strive to live in the present, but it's impossible, thus we must accept that our eyes always dwell in the past and future.
I studied "Song of Myself" from the first edition of Leaves of Grass in High school as a junior. Then in College I studied it again, along with many of his other shorter poems from Leaves of Grass and Drum Taps.
Now I teach him to Juniors at an international high school. I actually just finished reading Renyold's Whitman's America. I highly recommend it.
12/7/2009 0:10:43Sarah HackerLas Cruces, New Mexico, USAControversial, egocentric and egalitarian. This is drawn from the man himself and his works. His beliefs and writing were highly controversial. His writings have a strong feeling of egocentricity. However his politics and his writings were often more egalitarian than most at that period in time.One of my favorite passages is "Miracle". It's one of my preferred because the subject matter makes you remember not to take some much for granted. When you actually start looking at things for what they are and how they are, they are so utterly amazing. The complexity of the simplest things, flies for example, is breathtaking when you actually consider them in detail. We tend to ignore things or immediately classify them as "everyday" the moment we see them. But when actually considered everything can be seen as a miracle. It reminds me of a quote by Einstein: There are two ways to live your life; one is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is. We studied him in high school, but I did not find it particularly fascinating. It was intriguing to read him, but it was only the most common of his pieces that we read such as "O Captain! My Captain!" We also had to over-analyze it which takes so much of the joy out of things like poetry. Dissection does not improve poetry, usually.