Why Walt Whitman Still Matters


Poetry is not often spoken about amongst young people, which I find very peculiar. Poetry is all about self-expression and freeing of emotions. It’s perfectly acceptable to write a really long-winded, annoying Facebook status in this day and age. But why not turn your feelings into art?

I have been writing poetry since I was very young, always determined to turn ugly feelings into beautiful statements. After reading the poetry of Walt Whitman, I have come to the conclusion that no one else can write more beautifully than him.

Leaves of Grass is probably my favourite collection of his work. All of his verses in each of the twelve emanate a sense of freedom which captures the soul. He uses intensely rich description of landscapes and people in Song of Myself, my favourite poem of the collection. Even with a whopping fifty-two verses, one cannot help to continue reading. This poem leaves me spellbound, time after time.

The opening verse particularly stuns me. Whitman describes the feeling of love with a deep romantic feeling:

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

He confirms that if you cannot love yourself, you cannot love anyone else. This verse has motivated me to try to care a little more about myself, and to try to be a better person. He continues this sensuous, loving feeling throughout the nest few verses. My favourite quote from this mesmerizing poem appears in the fifth verse.

I mind how we lay in June, such a transparent summer morning;
You settled your head athwart my hips and gently turned over upon me,
And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my barestript heart.

Many critics claim that there is much sexual connotations in this poem, especially in this line. They are probably right. However, in my opinion, the meaning of the poem can only be determined by the reader. I think that this is a particularly playful image. Whitman’s lover consumes his life, body and soul. His love for her is at full capacity. She has stolen his heart.

As an 18 year-old girl, I have no idea what love is. Even people my age who have been in long-term relationships don’t know what it is. It’s not Hallmark cards or cute texts or fancy dinners or cuddles. What Walt Whitman describes is real love. Someone who will obliterate you. Someone who you can love as much as you love yourself. Someone you can give every atom of your being to.

You could say he was inspiring. You could say he was a literary genius. You could say he explored emotions so deeply that you get butterflies.

I think he is all of those things.

For more of Whitman’s work, click here .


One thought on “Why Walt Whitman Still Matters

  1. Pingback: Spring Cleaning – Washing Our Souls Anew | joanneeddy's blog

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