Walt Whitman

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How did Ralph Waldo Emerson's ideas about poetry influence Walt Whitman?

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William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In addition to what was said in answer #1, I would like to point out that something else Emerson wrote in his famous essay "The Poet" had a very powerful influence on Walt Whitman and subsequently on all modern poetry. According to Emerson:

For it is not metres, but a metre-making argument, that makes a poem, — a thought so passionate and alive, that, like the spirit of a plant or an animal, it has an architecture of its own, and adorns nature with a new thing. The thought and the form are equal in the order of time, but in the order of genesis the thought is prior to the form.

Whitman took this advice literally, and much of his poetry in Leaves of Grass shows that he was ignoring many of the traditions of European poetry, most of which had themselves been derived from the ancient Greeks and Romans. Walt Whitman's poetry notably disregarded meter, rhyme, and line length. He also seemed to pay scant attention to such poetic devices as similes and metaphors. His poetry represented a...

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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