Tracing walt whitmans homosexuality in his biography

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The novel centers on a country boy who, after falling prey to drink in the big city, eventually causes the deaths of three women. Still, he did not give himself over to fiction with the kind of life-changing commitment he would later give to experimental poetry. Although his own formal education was, by today's standards, minimal, his work as a newspaper apprentice had helped him develop the skills of reading and writing, more than enough for the kind of teaching he would find himself doing over the next few years. It was this amputation, this fragmenting of the Union—in both a literal and figurative sense—that Whitman would address for the next few years, as he devoted himself to be coming the arms and legs of the wounded and maimed soldiers in the Civil War hospitals. Another curiosity is the omission of Whitman's poetry manuscripts, an especially strange choice because the New York University Press edition includes a hefty amount of material of minor importance, meticulously edited and annotated. There are now many different Walt Whitmans at work in various poetic traditions, influencing writers in distinctive ways—in some countries he is the poet of socialism, in others the poet of spiritualism, in others still the poet of radical sexuality. The mystery about Whitman in the late s is the speed of his transformation from an unoriginal and conventional poet into one who abruptly abandoned conventional rhyme and meter and, in jottings begun at this time, exploited the odd loveliness of ho mely imagery, finding beauty in the commonplace but expressing it in an uncommon way. And he sought to dispense this medicine not only to soldiers on his hospital visits but to all Americans through his books. There was a special affectional bond between Whitman and his mother, and the long correspondence between them records a kind of partnership in attempting to deal with the family crises that mounted over the years, as J esse became mentally unstable and violent and eventually had to be institutionalized, as Hannah entered a disastrous marriage with an abusive husband, as Andrew became an alcoholic and married a prostitute before dying of ill health in his 30s, and as Edward required increasingly dedicated care.

Walter Whitman Sr was of English stock, and his marriage in to Louisa Van Velsor, of Dutch and Welsh stock, led to what Walt always considered a fertile tension in the Whitman children between a more smoldering, brooding Puritanical temperament and a sunnier, more outgoing Dutch disposition.

Whitman did not think of himself primarily as a poet, but rather as a writer, and his work always probes the borders between prose and poetry, fiction and nonfiction, realism and romanticism.

By the spring ofWalt Whitman had found or made a style in which he could express himself, and in that style he had after, as he has told me, elaborately building up the structure, and then utterly demolishing it, five different times written twelve poems, and a long prose preface which was simply another poem.

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His future career seemed set in the newspaper and printing trades, but then two of New York's worst fires wiped out the major printing and business centers of the city, and, in the midst of a dismal financial climate, Whitman retreated to rural Long Island, joining his family at Hempstead in Whitman's use of these shorthand names allowed him to work out an arrangement of poems.

There was a special affectional bond between Whitman and his mother, and the long correspondence between them records a kind of partnership in attempting to deal with the family crises that mounted over the years, as J esse became mentally unstable and violent and eventually had to be institutionalized, as Hannah entered a disastrous marriage with an abusive husband, as Andrew became an alcoholic and married a prostitute before dying of ill health in his 30s, and as Edward required increasingly dedicated care.

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The mystery that has intrigued biographers and critics over the years has been about what prompted the transformation: did Whitman undergo some sort of spiritual illumination that opened the floodgates of a radical new kind of poetry, or was this poetr y the result of an original and carefully calculated strategy to blend journalism, oratory, popular music, and other cultural forces into an innovative American voice like the one Ralph Waldo Emerson had called for in his essay "The Poet"?

One of the best places to search for the answer to that mystery is in Whitman's manuscript writings from this period. Famous passages on "Dilation," on "True noble expanding American character," and on the "soul enfolding orbs" are memorable prose statements that express the newly expansive sense of self that Whitman was discovering, and we find him here creating the conditions—setting the tone and articulating the ideas—that would allow for the writing of Leaves of Grass.

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The wrecked bodies dispersed among the displays were what "progress" had brought, the result of new inventions that had created modern warfare.

Our third chapter treats Whitman's first two editions of Leaves Living away from home—the rest of his family moved back to the West Hills area inleaving year-old Walt alone in the city—and learning how to set type under the Patriot's foreman printer William Hartshorne, Whitman was gaining skills and experiencing an independence that would mark his whole career: he would always retain a typesetter's concern for how his words looked on a page, what typeface they were dressed in, what effects various spatial arrangements had, and he would always retain his stubborn independence, remaining a bachelor and living alone for most of his life.

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From his schooling through his newspaper apprenticeships, Whitman was formed in key ways by the technological developments that made cheap paper and cheap printing accessible to the quickly expanding population of the US. He had included Indians in his poems of America, cataloguing "the red aborigines" in "Starting from Paumanok," for example, celebrating the w ay they "charg[ed] the water and the land with names" thus Whitman always preferred the name "Paumanok" to "Long Island" and often argued that aboriginal names for American places were always superior to names imported from Europe. It was burned. He was entranced by the intoxicating mix of languages—French and Spanish an d English—in that cosmopolitan city and began to see the possibilities of a distinctive American culture emerging from the melding of races and backgrounds his own fondness for using French terms may well have derived from his New Orleans stay. Perhaps b y the time he got to Washington, determined to stay a few days in order to visit wounded soldiers from Brooklyn, he already knew at some level that he would have to remain there for the duration of the war. He gathered these poems along with the few he had written jus t before the war the ones that Thayer and Eldridge has originally planned to publish as Banner at Day-Break and worked on combining them in a book called Drum-Taps, the title evoking both the beating of the drums that accompanied soldiers into battle as well as the beating out of "Taps," the death march sounded at the burial of soldiers originally played on the drums instead of the trumpet. But the exotic nature of the Southern city was not without its horrors: slaves were auctioned within an easy walk of where the Whitman brothers were lodging at the Tremont House, around the corner from Lafayette Square. Many of us still talk about "Song of Myself" as if it were a single, stable entity. But even given these growing family burdens, he managed to concentrate on his new book, and, just as he oversaw all the details of its composition and printing, so now did he supervise its distribution and try to control its reception. We know very little about the details of Whitman's life in the early s; it is as if he retreated from the public world to receive inspiration, and there are relatively few remaining manuscripts of the poems in the first edition of Leaves, leading many to believe that they emerged in a fury of inspiration.

But the exotic nature of the Southern city was not without its horrors: slaves were auctioned within an easy walk of where the Whitman brothers were lodging at the Tremont House, around the corner from Lafayette Square.

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Whitman Biography