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What are some characteristics of Walt Whitman's work that makes him "America's" poet?

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davfencing | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 1, 2011 at 11:33 AM via web

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What are some characteristics of Walt Whitman's work that makes him "America's" poet?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 1, 2011 at 6:25 PM (Answer #1)

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I think that one potential avenue to explore in this question is how Whitman, himself, aligns his own work with the glorification of America.  In Whitman's poems such as "I Hear America Singing,"  there is an extolling of what it means to be in America and the diversity in America.  Whitman's poems articulate the democratic sensibilities that help to define America, doing so in a way that makes his work a song or some type of lyric dedication as to what it means to be in America.  His writing is based off of the idea that the theoretical envisioning of what America is meant to be is far superior to anything else constructed.  The experiment and experience of liberal democracy and social plurality that Whitman sees as such an embedded part of the American predicament is worthy of praise through poetic work.  Whitman also recognizes that as America experiences changes in its own makeup such as industrialization, the emergence of free vs. slave states, and the expansion of boundaries and borders, a reminder through his own work as to what defines America could serve to be important and essential in the assurance that the future of the nation is constructed with its past and theoretical foundation in mind.  Within this light, Whitman can be clearly seen as "America's poet."

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