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Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was one of the great innovators in American literature. He has achieved two main contributions to American literature: the introduction of the genuine epic poem for the first time in America and the introduction of a new poetic style which is now called free verse. The free verse is poetry with neither a fixed beat nor a regular rhyme scheme. He innovates such a style because he was convinced that the voice of democracy should not be haltered by traditional forms of verse; as he was a supporter of Jackson’s democratic party in the 1840s . He also favored the exclusion of slavery from the states and because of this he was dismissed from his job in 1848. disappointed by dismissal, he traveled to new Orleans, Chicago and the western frontier and there is no doubt that his experiences in these trips marked a turning point in his career. The influence of Whitman on the poetic technique of other writers was small during his lifetime. But today the elements of his style are apparent in the works of many poets. For example, many of the twentieth century poets such as Carl Sandburg, and Allen Ginsberg have owed a lot for him.
The first collection of his poems was published in 1855 under the title of Leaves of Grass. Most of the poems of this collection are around one main theme which is the relationship between man and nature. However, a small number of the deal with other themes such as the city of New York that fascinated him or The Civil War, in which he served as a volunteer male nurse. In his poetry, Whitman has combined the ideal of the democratic common man and that of the rugged individual. He sees the poet as a hero, a savior and a prophet, one who leads the community by his expressions of the truth. With the production of Leaves of Grass, Whitman was praised by Emerson and a few other men of letters, but was attacked by the majority of the critics because of his unconventional style. He wanted his poetr...
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