Compared to the  "Fireside poets" such as Longfellow or Whittier, what makes Walt Whitman seem revolutionary?


Walt Whitman

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Whitman saw the asymmetry of the world, its roughness, its arbitrariness, its disorder, and found beauty in this chaos.  “Do I contradict myself?  Very well, I contradict myself.”  As a consequence of his exuberance and energy, he eschewed the even, cadenced line rhythms of his predecessors and contemporaries, choosing instead a prose style of run-on sentences, and intense descriptions of real objects and events, almost entirely void of metaphor or word-play.  Add to this his world view, seldom harmonious, often harsh, even sensual, with many objectionable opinions, and you have a thematic departure from the Fireside poets’ attitudes, plus a dramatically different opinion of human energy and value (and his permissive, multisexual attitude toward physical love). His verbal expressions were almost primitive ("my barbaric yawp”, as he described it) further separated him and made him a revolutionary figure.  He was so revolutionary, in fact, that poets of his raw energy and verbal bravado can even today be counted on one hand--Sandburg, Ginsberg, Corso. 


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