Individuality And Free Verse in Walt Whitman's Song of Myself

1524 Words7 Pages
Forged in the fire of revolution and defined by manifest destiny, America has always been the land of the individual. Although the American dream has not always been consistent, (married with 2.5 kids, 2 cars, a dog and a satisfying job), the spirit of innovation, individuality and progress remains unchanged. The father of free verse, and perhaps the American perspective of poetry, Walt Whitman embodies these values in his life and work. First published in 1855 in Leaves of Grass, "Song of Myself" is a vision of a symbolic "I" enraptured by the senses, vicariously embracing all people and places from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. Sections 1 and 2, like the entirety of the piece, seek to reconcile the individual and the natural world…show more content…
Also notable was the absence of any note on the cover identifying Walt Whitman as the author. Instead, engraved on the front is a portrait of Whitman, hat cocked, nonchalant and intimately personal. In his preface, Whitman heralds the coming of a new democratic literature, one that forms a "commensurate with the people" (preface). Whitman saw his poetry not only as a creation of the self, but indeed a piece of the self and a reflection of American society as a whole (Mulcaire 471). Whitman purposely left the cover unmarked because he regarded his poetry as a binding and universal understanding of which he was not the proprietor, but merely a participant in. More central to Whitman's purpose was his view of the poem as a means expressing his "self" in universal terms. Because of his background in the high volume production of literature, Terry Mulcaire theorizes that Whitman saw the mass distribution of his poetry as a means of universalizing an intimacy with his world:

(W)e are now part of a living crowd who see the same "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," the same poem, the same book, the same product of an industrial culture that generations of readers have experienced. (Mulcaire 473)

The intended result is that the person that Whitman, in this "commodification," becomes inextricably melded
Get Access