Walt Whitman | Poetry All-Stars

Walt Whitman
1819 - 1892

Walt Whitman, "The Great Grey Poet," was born in 1819 on Long Island in New York. At an early age, Whitman began reading the work of Shakespeare and Homer. His love of words led to work as a printer and a teacher. In 1841, Whitman began a writing career as a newspaper journalist and editor. While in his 30s, a small book of poetry, Leaves of Grass, marked him as one of the great poets. At first, many critics disliked his "free-verse" poetry. It appeared to have no rules or structure, unlike traditional poetry. Today, Whitman is seen as one of the major influences on modern poetry. 


I Hear America Singing

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, 
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong, 
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam, 
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work, 
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand 
singing on the steamboat deck, 
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as 
he stands, 
The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, 
or at noon intermission or at sundown, 
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, 
or of the girl sewing or washing, 
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else, 
The day what belongs to the day - at night the party of young 
fellows, robust, friendly, 
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs. 


Photo courtesy National Archives

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