Walt Whitman Research Paper Paper

Published: 2021-09-10 19:25:07
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Category: Poetry

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Walt Whitman is most certainly the forefather of contemporary American prose and poetry. Whitman’s most celebrated work; Leaves of Grass has left a mark not only on American society but also on the work of Allen Ginsberg who is vastly reminiscent of Walt Whitman. I will begin this essay by paralleling the Leaves of Grass to Ginsberg’s Howl while incorporating the work and ideas of other contemporary Amesrican poets.
To take one Allen Ginsberg poem as an example, we will be able to draw a corollary between Howl and the poetic style developed by Whitman: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked…” Whitman released himself from rhyme and measure and focused more fervently on identifying and naming the inhabitants of a specific world. Here we can see that Ginsberg is using the same poetic technique and often an idea is repetitively stressed in order to address the world in which he is speaking of. This idea of repetition is best seen in Whitman’s Song of Myself:
Unguarded Gates Poem Analysis
It cannot fall the young man who died and was buried Nor the young woman who died and was put by his side, Nor the little child that peep’d in at the door, and then drew back and was never seen again, Nor the old man who has lived without purpose, and feels it with bitterness worse than gall, Nor him in the poor house tubercled by rum and bad disorder, Nor the numberless slaughter’d and wreck’d, nor the brutish kobo call’d the ordure of humanity… The stylistic similarities between Ginsberg and Whitman are clearly evident upon the first reading.
Walt Whitman was able to open American poetry to a much freer subject and form, this is something that Ginsberg strongly took hold of. Whitman was a radical writer during his time and Ginsberg took similar risks in expressing himself through poetic means. Throughout the course, there has been an underlying theme of attempting to describe the world in whole as well as the individual’s relationship to society. In American society today it feels as though we are pushing individuals to “walk the road less taken. Ginsberg and Whitman I feel are comparable not only through their stylistic similarities but also through their relationship with societal morals. Ginsberg in the 1950’s was an ultra radical; he essentially was the intellectual basis for the Jack Kerouac “Beat Generation. ” Whitman also challenged the “order of humanity” and expressed ideas foreign to society at the time of his writing. Modern day America is much more open to individuality and diversity than it was just forty to fifty years ago.
The work of a writer will project much more in a society resistant to outside ideas than it will in a more accessible minded society. Allen Ginsberg’s poem A Supermarket in Heaven is a romantic homage to the change of ideas from the 1850’s to the 1950’s. Ginsberg has an almost mystical attachment to be incorporated into the moment of the world. Whitman had a passionate desire to love and be apart of the world despite the world at times being unlovable. Nick Flynn in The Captain Asks For a Show of Hands also points to the need for man to have openness towards the world.
In the fist poem of the collection, haiku (failed) Flynn writes: The thin thread that hold us here, tethered/ or maybe tied, together, What/ do you call it –telephone? horizon? song? Listen/ to yourself sing, We are all god’s children / we are all gods, we walk the earth These opening lines establish a connection between humanity or the lack there of, whether it is a telephone wire or song. Flynn also writes in seven testimonies (redacted) about the horrors, which occurred between the guards and Abu Ghraib detainees. Here again we find that in order for the reader to walk away satisfied the author must take a risk.
This specific incident was a moment of great turmoil for America, yet similar to Whitman Flynn still encourages to love and be apart of the world despite it at times being difficult to live with. This is seen in his poem Imagination where he writes, “…the earth/ is dirt, our bodies dirt & you/ floating there a hand’s-/ width above me, just until/ things blow over, that/ war, say, Jesus/ did we really just make it all up? It is almost as if he is saying that regardless of evil all humanity is composed of the same materials therefore we are all connected.
Differing from Whitman and Ginsberg who were aspiring to gain connection Flynn is writing to regain that sense of connection. The fractured nature of Flynn’s writing became the pressing subject and goal of the book as he begins to decipher the voices of the media, military and government. We live in a world so enveloped with technology that it is difficult to establish a sense of security and trust between another human. There once was a time where a handshake sealed the deal, that hand is no longer valid unless it is “googled” or sent to a laboratory to ensure its security.
Ginsberg wrote during the height of American conformity, the 1950’s, a time when there was still much societal improvement to be made, especially concerning civil rights. There was indeed a necessity to break barriers and restructure the way America viewed its ideal society. Now, as I think Flynn asserts, we have reached a position of heightened equality but our many options have confused the world as a whole and left it standing further disconnected. Ginsberg and Whitman’s theories on society were pragmatic while today the movement is driven much more out of emotion.
Many of the contemporary American poets we have read struggle with either a parent, usually their father or a spouse. Nick Flynn himself lost his mother to suicide and met his father for the first time at the age of 27 while working at a homeless shelter. This may shine a brighter light on why he may be so driven towards gaining a greater connection with society. Terrance Hayes another contemporary writes from s similar place in his collection of poems entitled Lighthead. Hayes in Arbor for Butch depicts the cyclical nature of the world through the relationship with his father: I am with my newborn son and the man blood says is my father n a shit motel, and if each of us is, as I sometimes believe, the room we inhabit, he is a bed used until it is stained. Even if I knew this first meeting was our last, I would have nothing to offer beyond the life I have made without him. I think this is highly representative of an individual’s relationship to a society. Despite the speakers inability to establish a meaningful and significant relationship with his father his is still able to bring new life into the world. It goes to show that life is always in a constant state of motion, sometimes there are moments of connectedness and other times it seems to be a distant appeal.
Again, we find an author who is not afraid to resist the norms of literary rule or society. Just as Whitman, Ginsberg and Flynn all break away from the standards of poetic writing so does Hayes. On the faculty page of Terrence Hayes at Carnegie Mellon University he writes that, “he aspires to a poetic style that resists style. ” Speaking only in regards to the material read in this course it is evident that profound writing does not conform but rather challenges thought. These thoughts are also not always as refreshing as the wisdom written by Whitman, many times I was left with a bitter taste about America.
Hayes writes in Support the Troops: I realize were it nor for the sacrifices of these young boys, America would no longer have its source of power. I have given considerable thought to your offer, but I simply am unable to offer my support. The nature of this poem is very ambiguous but it leaves me with the impression that he is unhappy with America and feels apart from it. Hayes stands himself apart from Ginsberg and Whitman here who acknowledge the negative aspects but still desire to be apart of the “ordure of (American) humanity. As I near conclusion I felt a need to include Wallace Stevens because he is able to establish a point of view that is still aside from the norm, but does it in a much more benign manner. In the Anecdote of the Jar he writes of a jar placed in the wilderness of Tennessee, “The wilderness rose up to it,/ and sprawled around no longer wild. / the jar was round upon the ground/ And tall and of a port in air. ” This poem was written in 1919 a time when nature was being converted though industry in ways that never seemed possible.
It points to the idea that the wild is tangible and as soon as humans incorporate the unnatural with the natural, the wild ceases to exist. This is an idea reminiscent of the modern environmentalist movement, but Stevens wrote this at the turn of the twentieth century. Wallace Stevens is also writing from the prospective of a capitalist, he was a lawyer and vice president of the Hartford insurance company. Americas current fragmentation seen through the work of Flynn, segments society in a way where it would seem impossible for a member of the capitalist elite to write profoundly on the imagination or wilderness as did Stevens.
Through the works discussed in this essay there has developed a prevalent theme of connection not only to society but also to the world. Beginning with Whitman there has been a great deal of risk taken in order to get across an idea. Throughout the course of American society, the word risk has always had a prominent part from the revolution to where we stand today. All of the writes discussed are writing in hopes of a more open society, one that understands fragmentation is subsidiary to connectedness.

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