Walter Whitman

Walter Whitman
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他用诗歌来歌颂美国,塑造了美国的观念。

Walter Whitman


 


Walter Whitman (May 31, 1819 – march 26, 1892) was an American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist. He was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse. His work was very controversial in its time, particularly his poetry collection Leaves of Grass, which was described as obscene for its overt sexuality.


 


Born on long island, Whitman worked as a journalist, a teacher, a government clerk, and a volunteer nurse during the American civil war in addition to publishing his poetry. Early in his career, he also produced a temperance novel, Franklin Evans (1842). Whitman's major work, Leaves of Grass, was first published in 1855 with his own money. The work was an attempt at reaching out to the common person with an American epic. He continued expanding and revising it until his death in 1892. After a stroke towards the end of his life, he moved to Camden, New Jersey where his health further declined. He died at age 72 and his funeral became a public spectacle.


 


Whitman's sexuality is often discussed alongside his poetry. Though biographers continue to debate his sexuality, he is usually described as either homosexual or bisexual in his feelings and attractions. However, there is disagreement among biographers as to whether Whitman had actual sexual experiences with men. Whitman was concerned with politics throughout his life. He supported the Wilmot proviso and opposed the extension of slavery generally. His poetry presented an egalitarian view of the races, and at one point he called for the abolition of slavery, but later he saw the abolitionist movement as a threat to democracy.


 


Leaves of Grass


 


Whitman claimed that after years of competing for "the usual rewards", he determined to become a poet. He first experimented with a variety of popular literary genres which appealed to the cultural tastes of the period. As early as 1850, he began writing what would become Leaves of Grass, a collection of poetry which he would continue editing and revising until his death. Whitman intended to write a distinctly American epic and used free verse with a cadence based on the bible. At the end of June 1855, Whitman surprised his brothers with the already-printed first edition of Leaves of Grass. George "didn't think it worth reading".


 


Whitman paid for the publication of the first edition of Leaves of Grass himself and had it printed at a local print shop during their breaks from commercial jobs. A total of 795 copies were printed. No name is given as author; instead, facing the title page was an engraved portrait done by Samuel Hollyer, but in the body of the text he calls himself "Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a cosmos, disorderly, fleshly, and sensual, no sentimentalist, and no stander above men or women or apart from them, no more modest than immodest". The book received its strongest praise from Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote a flattering five page letter to Whitman and spoke highly of the book to friends. The first edition of Leaves of Grass was widely distributed and stirred up significant interest, in part due to Emerson’s approval, but was occasionally criticized for the seemingly "obscene" nature of the poetry. Geologist john peter Lesley wrote to Emerson, calling the book "trashy, profane & obscene" and the author "a pretentious ass". On July 11, 1855, a few days after Leaves of Grass was published, Whitman's father died at the age of 65.


 


In the months following the first edition of Leaves of Grass, critical responses began focusing more on the potentially offensive sexual themes. Though the second edition was already printed and bound, the publisher almost did not release it. In the end, the edition went to retail, with 20 additional poems, in august 1856. Leaves of Grass was revised and re-released in 1860 again in 1867, and several more times throughout the remainder of Whitman's life. Several well-known writers admired the work enough to visit Whitman, including Bronson Alcott and Henry David Thoreau.


 


During the first publications of Leaves of Grass, Whitman had financial difficulties and was forced to work as a journalist again, specifically with Brooklyn’s daily times starting in may 1857. As an editor, he oversaw the paper's contents, contributed book reviews, and wrote editorials. He left the job in 1859, though it is unclear if he was fired or chose to leave. Whitman, who typically kept detailed notebooks and journals, left very little information about himself in the late 1850s.


 


Writing


 


Whitman's work breaks the boundaries of poetic form and is generally prose-like. He also used unusual images and symbols in his poetry, including rotting leaves, tufts of straw, and debris. He also openly wrote about death and sexuality, including prostitution. He is often labeled as the father of free verse, though he did not invent it.


 


Poetic theory


 


Whitman wrote in the preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, "the proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed It." he believed there was a vital, symbiotic relationship between the poet and society. This connection was emphasized especially in "song of myself" by using an all-powerful first-person narration. As an American epic, it deviated from the historic use of an elevated hero and instead assumed the identity of the common people. Leaves of Grass also responded to the impact that recent urbanization in the United States had on the masses.


 


Legacy and influence


 


Walt Whitman has been claimed as America’s first "poet of democracy", a title meant to reflect his ability to write in a singularly American character. a British friend of Walt Whitman, Mary smith Whitall Costelloe, wrote: "you cannot really understand America without Walt Whitman, without Leaves of Grass... he has expressed that civilization, 'up to date,' as he would say, and no student of the philosophy of history can do without him." modernist poet Ezra pound called Whitman "America’s poet... he is America." Andrew Carnegie called him "the great poet of America so far". Whitman considered himself a messiah-like figure in poetry. Others agreed: one of his admirers, William Sloane Kennedy, speculated that "people will be celebrating the birth of Walt Whitman as they are now the birth of Christ".


 


The literary critic, Harold bloom wrote, as the introduction for the 150th anniversary of Leaves of Grass:


 


If you are American, then Walt Whitman is your imaginative father and mother, even if, like myself, you have never composed a line of verse. You can nominate a fair number of literary works as candidates for the secular scripture of the United States. They might include Melville’s Moby-dick, twain's adventures of huckleberry Finn, and Emerson’s two series of essays and the conduct of life. None of those, not even Emerson’s, are as central as the first edition of Leaves of Grass.


 


Whitman's vagabond lifestyle was adopted by the beat movement and its leaders such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac in the 1950s and 1960s as well as anti-war poets like Adrienne rich and Gary Snyder. Lawrence Ferlinghetti numbered himself among Whitman's "wild children", and the title of his 1961 collection starting from San Francisco is a deliberate reference to Whitman's starting from paumanok. Whitman also influenced Bram stoker, author of Dracula, and was the model for the character of Dracula. Stoker said in his notes that Dracula represented the quintessential male which, to stoker, was Whitman, with whom he corresponded until Whitman's death.


 


Whitman is a 2009 inductee of the New Jersey hall of fame.


 


the final stanza of the poem "the wound-dresser" by Walt Whitman has been engraved across the top of the massive granite walls encircling the 188-foot north entrance escalators descending to the underground trains at the DuPont circle stop on the Washington, D.C. transit system. the installation was formally dedicated as a tribute to caregivers for those with HIV/AIDS and other devastating illnesses at a ceremony on July 14, 2007.

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  • 来源: 2016-07-29