Walt Whitman Biography

Walt Whitman Biography

Walt Whitman's lines “I contradict myself? Very well then. I contradict myself,” from his poem “Song of Myself,” embody the complexities of this remarkable American poet. He broke all the literary rules, discarding rhyme and form in favor of free verse, and he also fought societal convention by speaking fearlessly about his homosexuality. And though many of his views may have gone against popular opinion, his poem “O Captain! My Captain!” in memory of Abraham Lincoln is one of the most patriotic in American history. In addition to his controversial political and social stances, Whitman wrote beautifully detailed reflections on nature, such as “A Noiseless Patient Spider.” Few poets have ever come close to matching his genius and wit.

Facts and Trivia

  • Largely self-taught, Walt Whitman was living in New York by age fourteen, supporting himself by learning to set type.
  • Whitman self-published Leaves of Grass in 1855, when he was thirty-six years old. The collection included twelve poems he continued to revise for most of his life. It remains his most lasting and endearing work.
  • Because his brother George was wounded during the Civil War, Whitman became a nurse, spending most of his meager finances and time helping to heal the wounded.
  • His admirers have included everyone from Lord Alfred Tennyson to Jack Kerouac.
  • Whitman died in Camden, New Jersey, in 1892. He designed his own tomb. It reads simply, “Walt Whitman.”
Additional Content
  • Biography (History of the World: The 19th Century)
  • Biography (Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)
  • Biography (Poets and Poetry in America)
  • Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)
  • Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)
  • Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)
  • Biography
  • Biography

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