Summer Solstice

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Walt Whitman

Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse. His work was very controversial in its time, particularly his poetry collection Leaves of Grass, which was described as obscene for its overt sexuality. 

Walt was born in Westhills, Long Island, May 31, 1819, in a farm-house overlooking the sea. While yet a child his parents moved to Brooklyn, where he acquired his education. He learned type-setting at thirteen years of age. Two years later he taught a country school. At thirty he traveled through the Western States, and spent one year in New Orleans editing a newspaper. Returning home he took up his father's occupation of carpenter and builder, which he followed for a while. During the War of the Rebellion he spent most of his time in the hospitals and camps, in the relief of the sick and disabled soldiers; he also became a government clerk.  He was never married and was thought to be gay.  |

In 1855 Whitman published at his own expense a volume of 12 poems, Leaves of Grass, which he had begun working on probably as early as 1847. It was criticized because of Whitman’s exaltation of the body and sexual love and also because of its innovation in verse form—that is, the use of free verse in long rhythmical lines with a natural, “organic” structure. |

His poems lack much of the standard of recognized poetic measure. He has a style peculiar to himself, and his writings are full of meaning, beauty and interest. Of his productions, Underwood says: "Pupils who are accustomed to associate the idea of poetry with regular classic measure in rhyme, or in ten-syllabled blank verse or elastic hexameters, will commence these short and simple prose sentences with surprise, and will wonder how any number of them can form a poem. But let them read aloud with a mind in sympathy with the picture as it is displayed, and they will find by nature's unmistakable responses, that the author was a poet, and possessed the poet's incommunicable power to touch the heart." He died in Camden, N. J., March 20, 1892. 

Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson, regarded as one of America’s greatest poets, is also well known for her unusual life of self imposed social seclusion. Living a life of simplicity and seclusion, she yet wrote poetry of great power; questioning the nature of immortality and death, with at times an almost mantric quality. Her different lifestyle created an aura; often romanticised, and frequently a source of interest and speculation. But ultimately Emily Dickinson is remembered for her unique poetry.

Emily Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, in the town of Amherst, Massachusetts. As a young child, Emily proved to be a bright and conscientious student. She showed a sharp intelligence, and was able to create many original writings of rhyming stories, delighting her fellow classmates. Emily’s father was strict and keen to bring up his children in the proper way. At a young age, she said she wished to be the “best little girl”.

At Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in South Hadley, she was able to study a range of subjects from Latin to English Literature. However, her studies were often interrupted by ill health. After a persistent cough developed, her father decided to remove her from college and bring her back home. Thus she left without any formal qualifications, but she had at least been able to broaden her education and vocabulary.

Emily Dickinson’s later seclusion from society gives an impression of a life of austerity and simplicity. This has been romanticised, with the frequently cited preference for her wearing all white dresses. However, Emily was both a keen artist and accomplished musician. In her college years she enjoyed singing;...
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