W alt Whitman, American poet: biography, creativity, memory

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W alt Whitman, American poet: biography, creativity, memory
W alt Whitman, American poet: biography, creativity, memory

Video: W alt Whitman, American poet: biography, creativity, memory

Video: W alt Whitman, American poet: biography, creativity, memory
Video: Joseph Brodsky recites "Nature Morte" / Иосиф Бродский, "Натюрморт" 1989 (subtitled Eng, Rus) 2023, December

W alt Whitman, born in Huntington, Long Island, worked as a journalist, teacher, government clerk and, in addition to publishing his poetry, volunteered during the American Civil War. Early in his career, he also wrote the Renaissance novel Franklin Evans (1842).

W alt Whitman's major work, Leaves of Grass, was first published in 1855 at his own expense. It was an attempt to connect with the common man, done in a truly American way. He continued to expand and revise this work until his death in 1892. After a stroke, towards the end of his life, he moved to Camden, New Jersey, where his he alth only worsened. When he died at the age of 72, his funeral became a public event. National mourning was declared.

W alt Whitman's poems are still very popular in the US. Which is surprising considering how late he turned to poetry.

Whitman in his prime
Whitman in his prime

Early years

W alt's biographyWhitman began May 31, 1819 in the West Hills, in the city of Huntington (Long Island). He was born to Quaker parents W alter and Louise Van Velsor Whitman. As the second of nine children, he immediately received the nickname W alt, given specifically to distinguish him from his father. W alter Whitman Sr. named three of his seven sons after prominent American leaders: Andrew Jackson, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. The eldest was named Jesse, and another boy died at the age of six months without being named. The couple's sixth son, the youngest, was named Edward. At the age of four, Whitman moved with his family from the Western Hills to Brooklyn.

W alt Whitman described his childhood as rather troubled and unhappy, given the difficult economic status of the family. One happy moment he later recalled was with the Marquise de Lafayette, who lifted him into the air and kissed him on the cheek during Brooklyn's Independence Day celebration on July 4, 1825.

Study and youth

At the age of eleven, W alt Whitman graduated from formal education. He then looked for work to help his family. For a time, the future poet worked as an assistant to two lawyers, and later was an intern and journalist in the weekly newspapers Long Island and The Patriot, edited by Samuel E. Clements. There Whitman learned about the printing press and typesetting. It brought at least some money, unlike the newfangled popular poems.

Searching for a calling

The following summer, Whitman worked for Erastus Worthington in Brooklyn. His family returned to the Westernhills in the spring, but Whitman stayed and took a job at the shop of Alden Spooner, editor of the leading weekly newspaper, The Long Island Star.

At this time, Whitman became a regular visitor to the local library, joined the city's debating society, began attending theater performances, published some of his early poetry anonymously in the New York Mirror.

In May 1835, Whitman left Brooklyn. He moved to New York to work as a composer. Tried to find a permanent job but struggled (partly because of a massive fire in the printing and publishing district, and partly because of the general collapse of the economy leading to the crisis of 1837).

In May 1836 he joined his family, now living in Hempstead, Long Island. Whitman taught intermittently at various schools until the spring of 1838, although he was not a good teacher. In the future, poetry will bring him popularity.

Young W alt Whitman
Young W alt Whitman

After his attempts at teaching, Whitman returned to Huntington, New York, to start his own newspaper, The Long Islander. Whitman has worked as a publisher, editor, pressman, distributor, and even home deliveries.

Ten months later he sold the edition to E. O. Crowell. The first issue appeared on July 12, 1839. There are no known surviving copies of the newspaper published under Whitman's direction. By the summer of 1839, he had found work as a typesetter for the Long Island Democrat, edited by James J. Brenton.

Southold Incident

Soon the future poet left the newspaper and made another attempt to become a teacher. He practiced this craft from the winter of 1840 until the spring of 1841. One story, possibly apocryphal, tells how Whitman was ignominiously suspended from his academic work in Southhold, New York, in 1840. After being called a "sodomite" by a local preacher, Whitman was allegedly smeared with pitch and covered in rooster feathers. Biographer Justin Kaplan notes that the story is likely fictitious because Whitman regularly vacationed in the city after this allegedly highly humiliating situation. Biographer Jerome Loving calls the incident a myth.

First creative efforts

Soon the aspiring poet published a series of ten editorials en titled "Sun-Down Papers - From the Schoolteacher's Desk" in three newspapers between the winter of 1840 and July 1841.

W alt Whitman moved to New York in May 1841. At first he worked at a low-paying job in the New World under Benjamin Sr. and Rufus Wilmot Griswold. He continued to work for short periods of time for various newspapers: in 1842 he was editor of the Aurora, and from 1846 to 1848 he worked at the Brooklyn Eagle.

In 1852, Whitman wrote a novel en titled The Life and Adventures of Jack Angle. It was part autobiography, part history of New York at that time, where the reader could find some familiar characters from everyday life in the capital.

In 1858, Whitman published a series of 47,000-word tests under the general title "Manny - He alth and Learning". For these publications, he used the pseudonym Moz Velsor. Apparently, he derived the name Velsor from the surname Van Velsor, which belonged to his mother. This self-help guide recommends wearing a beard and sunbathing, comfortable shoes, daily bathing in cold water, eating meat, plenty of fresh air, and morning walks. Contemporaries called this work "a bizarre and stupid pseudo-scientific treatise."

Whitman at 36
Whitman at 36

W alt Whitman, "Leaves of Grass"

Whitman claimed that after several years of unsuccessful pursuit of recognition, he finally decided to become a poet. At first, he experimented with many popular literary genres, focusing on the cultural tastes of the time. As early as 1850, what would soon become W alt Whitman's legendary Leaves of Grass began to emerge. This collection of poems he will continue to edit and revise until his death. Whitman intended to write a distinctly American epic, and used free verse with a high-flown Biblical style to do so. At the end of June 1855, Whitman surprised his brothers with the already printed first edition of Leaves of Grass. George, however, did not even see fit to read it.

Whitman paid for the publication of the first edition of Leaves of Grass and printed it at a local printer during breaks from his day job. 795 copies were printed. Whitman was not credited as the author, instead a portrait of him by Samuel Hollier was engraved before the title page. There was also printed a lengthytext: "W alt Whitman, American, coarse, cosmic, promiscuous, carnal and sensual, not sentimental, not superior to or in place of men or women, not more humble than indiscreet."

The main text was preceded by a prose preface of 827 lines. The next twelve un titled poems contained 2315 lines, 1336 of them belonged to the first un titled poem, later called "The Song of Myself".

The book received praise from Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote a flattering five-page letter to Whitman and praised his work, advising him to all his acquaintances. The first edition of Leaves of Grass was widely circulated and attracted considerable interest from readers partly due to Emerson's approval, but was sometimes criticized for the seemingly "obscene" nature of the poetry. Geologist John Peter Leslie wrote to Emerson calling the book "cheesy, defiling and obscene" and the author a "pretentious ass". On July 11, 1855, a few days after the publication of W alt Whitman's first book, his father died at the age of 65.

Life after fame

A few months after the first edition of Leaves of Grass, criticism of the book began to focus more on potentially offensive sexual themes. Although the second edition had already been printed, the publisher ended up not producing even half of the print run. The edition eventually went retail with 20 additional poems in August 1856. Leaves of Grass was revised and republished in 1860, then in 1867 and several more times onthroughout Whitman's life. Several notable writers have admired Whitman's work, including Amos Bronson Alcott and Henry David Thoreau.

Whitman in his declining years
Whitman in his declining years

At the time of the first publications of Leaves of Grass, Whitman was in financial difficulties and was forced to work again as a journalist, in particular to collaborate with the Brooklyn Times from May 1857. As editor, he oversaw the newspaper's content, provided book reviews, and wrote editorials. He left the job in 1859, although it is not clear whether he was fired or chose to leave on his own. Whitman, who usually kept detailed notebooks and journals, left very little information about himself in the late 1850s.

Sickness and death

After suffering a paralytic stroke in early 1873, the poet was forced to move from Washington to the home of his brother George Washington Whitman, an engineer, at 431 Stevens Street in Camden, New Jersey. His sick mother was also there and soon died. Both events were difficult for Whitman and left him feeling overwhelmed. He stayed at his brother's house until he bought a residence in 1884. However, before purchasing his house, he spent a lot of time with his brother on Stevens Street. While there he was very productive, publishing three versions of Leaves of Grass along with other works. He hosted Oscar Wilde, Thomas Eakins. His brother, Edward, who was disabled from birth, lived in the same house.

When his brother and daughter-in-law were forced to move for business reasons, he bought his own house on328 Mickle Street. At first, the tenants took care of everything - the poet was completely bedridden for most of his time. Then he began to communicate with Mary Oakes Davis - the widow of a sea captain. She was his neighbor, living with her family on Bridge Avenue, just a few blocks from Mickle Street.

She moved in with Whitman on February 24, 1885, as a housekeeper in exchange for free rent. The woman brought with her a cat, a dog, two turtledoves, a canary and other animals. During this time, Whitman produced new editions of Leaves of Grass in 1876, 1881, and 1889.

Elderly Whitman with a lover
Elderly Whitman with a lover

During this period, Whitman spent most of his time in the then rather puritanical community of Laurel Springs (between 1876 and 1884), turning one of the buildings on Stafford Farm into his summer home. The restored summer house has been preserved as a museum by the local historical society. Part of his "Leaves of Grass" was written here. For him, Laurel Lake was "the most beautiful lake in America and Europe."

As the end of 1891 approached, he prepared the final edition of Leaves of Grass, a version of which was called the Deathbed Edition. In preparation for his death, Whitman commissioned a house-shaped granite mausoleum for $4,000 and visited it frequently during construction. In the last week of his life, he was too weak to lift a knife or fork, and wrote: "I suffer all the time: I have no relief, no relief - monotonous-monotono-monotonously from pain."

Whitman died on March 26, 1892. Openingshowed that his lungs had been reduced to one-eighth of their normal breathing capacity as a result of bronchial pneumonia and that an egg-sized abscess in his chest had destroyed one of his ribs. The cause of death was officially listed as "pleurisy, exhaustion of the right lung, generalized miliary tuberculosis and parenchymal nephritis." A public examination of the body was held at his home in Camden, with more than three thousand people visiting in three hours. Due to the fact that everything around was showered with flowers and wreaths, Whitman's oak coffin was barely visible.

Four days after his death, he was buried in his tomb at Harley Cemetery in Camden. Another public ceremony was held there, in which friends gave speeches, live music played, and a variety of drinks were poured. Whitman's friend, orator Robert Ingersoll, delivered a eulogy in honor of the poet. Later, the remains of his parents, two brothers and their families were transferred to the mausoleum. Today, monuments to Whitman adorn many cities in the United States.

Whitman with his companion
Whitman with his companion

Features of creativity

Whitman's work blurs the boundaries of poetic form and classical prose. He also used unusual imagery and symbols in his poetry, including rotting leaves, bundles of straw, and debris. He wrote openly about death and sexuality, even describing prostitution. He is often called the father of free verse, although he did not invent it. W alt Whitman's quotes were well-distributed due to his unusual style.

Poetic theory

Whitman believed that between the poet and society there is a vitalimportant, symbiotic relationship. She was highlighted in "Song of Myself" using first-person narration. As a fan of the American epic, he deviated from the historical tradition of using lofty heroes, and instead turned to the personalities of ordinary people. Leaves of Grass was also a response to the impact that recent urbanization in the United States had on the masses. In this context, W alt Whitman's poem "O my captain, captain" is especially noteworthy.

Elderly poet
Elderly poet

Sexual orientation

Although biographers continue to discuss Whitman's inclinations, he is commonly referred to as homosexual or bisexual. Whitman's orientation is usually inferred from his poetry, although this assumption has been disputed. His work portrays love and sexuality in a more earthy way, prevalent in American culture prior to the medicalization of sexuality in the late 19th century. W alt Whitman's poetry is characterized by subtle homoeroticism.