Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819 in New York, and he was named after his father. He was a very influential American poet.
He spent his childhood visiting his grandparents in the countryside. "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" is a poem that shows him reminiscing on that childhood. Because of the time he spent in both the city and country, his poetry switches between rural and urban settings.
By the age of eleven, Whitman was done with formal education, but he loved visiting museums, reading, and attending lectures. He had to begin working in the printing business to help support his family. In 1831 he became an apprentice at Long Island's Patriot (a working class newspaper). Three years later his first article was published in the Mirror.
His career in the newspaper printing trade changed when two of the worst fires in New York wiped out the newspaper center of the city. Whitman turned his attention to being a schoolteacher because he didn't want to be a farmer, so he saw it as a good excuse. It was not an enjoyable time of his life, but he did use progressive techniques with his students. During his time as a teacher, Whitman taught in ten different towns. "There Was a Child Went Forth" is seen as his educational philosophy.
His poetry collection Leaves of Grass is considered a great piece of American literature. It went through at least seven editions during Whitman's life. It started out as 12 poems, but he continued to revise and add more poems until his death. It was this collection that caused him to be fired from his job with the Department of the Interior because of the book's content.
In 1841 Whitman tried starting his own newspaper, The Long Islander, but it failed within a year. He did spend time being the chief editor of the Eagle from 1846-1848.
During the Civil War, Whitman spent time with wounded soldiers. His experience volunteering as a nurse served as writing inspiration for him.
Walt Whitman passed away on March 26, 1892.
Interesting facts about Walt Whitman
- He never married.
- Of his eight siblings, Walt Whitman was closest to his brother who was fourteen years younger.
- Whitman enjoyed opera.
- He had a close friendship with Ralph Waldo Emerson, another famous poet.
- Whitman suffered a stroke in January 1873 that left him partially paralyzed.
- Whitman's poetry became more successful after his death.
- The Walt Whitman Bridge was named after him. It crosses the Delaware River near where he lived in Camden, New Jersey.
- The Walt Whitman Community School opened in 1997.