Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman are two poets that helped shape the way we think about poetry. While their backgrounds and writing styles were quite different, both Dickinson and Whitman challenged accepted forms of writing and are regarded today as important poets. Dickinson and Whitman had very different upbringings. Dickinson was raised in Amherst, Massachusetts, and had two siblings. She was always put in the best schools and even received a college education at Mount Holyoke. Her family was relatively wealthy, and she did not have to work in order to help them.
In contrast to Dickinson’s privileged upbringing, Whitman came from a very poor family. He had eight siblings, which made money for his family very tight. Since he was the second oldest child, he stopped going to school when he turned eleven and began working to support his family. Whitman worked all of his life, including jobs as a journalist, teacher, government clerk, and nurse in the Civil War. In terms of poetry, both writers had a unique style. Dickinson had a huge body of work, over 800 brief poems, but only about a dozen were published during her lifetime. Along with her intriguing content, she is widely remembered for her odd use of dashes and capital letters. For example, she would often end lines with dashes and use capital letters in the middle of sentences. Her lines were also inconsistent in length. Sometimes she would follow a two-syllable line with an eight-syllable line. In addition, Dickinson also avoided traditional full rhymes, like ball and tall. She used mostly slant rhyme (words that look like they rhyme, but they do not, such as can’t and want). Dickinson also believed that punctuation could completely change the meaning of a sentence. So, instead of commas, she would use a line break. Her poetry was untitled and focused heavily on nature, joy, love, and death.
Walt Whitman also had a unique writing style. However, in
contrast to Dickinson’s large body of work, Whitman...
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