Sunday, September 19, 2010

Oh, the Wonders of Walt Whitman!

Walt Whitman, a great American poet born in New York, May 31, 1819 has been influential for so many people throughout the years. Walt was the son of Walter and Louisa Whitman and was the second oldest out of his 8 other siblings. Although his short biography is helpful in understanding Whitman's life, there is so much more to be told about him.
Whitman was unable to finish school due to financial problems, therefore he got a job in the printer's trade, later as a teacher which he soon realized he hated and then he became a journalism which became his full time occupation in 1841. During this time, he began writing his first stories and poems; this was only the beginning of Whitman's literature.
When Ralph Waldo Emerson challenged someone to create an American piece of poetry, since most of the poetry they were seeing at the time was based on British style poetry, Whitman was determined to show him his unique poetic style. In response the challenge, he published Leaves of Grass in 1855. Some of his work was condemned and looked down upon, however, Ralph Waldo Emerson thought it to be "the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom yet contributed to American literature."
Now this is where it gets interesting. Poems in this book such as "We Two Boys Together Clinging" caught the attention of James Harlan, Secretary of the Interior. Harlan then had the nerve to declare Whitman's poetry "indecent" and then William Douglas O' Connor wrote a 50 page response, attacking Harlan. This is what I don't understand; why does it matter what Whitman's sexuality was? First of all, Whitman never declared himself as gay, so the assumptions from Harlan were unnecessary and despicable. Also, the point of Whitman's poems were not to convey his sexuality, but his views on romance and love, in his own poetic style.
Why is homosexuality always catching the eyes of Whitman readers when that aspect of his poetry is not even close to being the most important part? I, for one, find it disgusting that people cannot accept others for who they are, no matter what their sexuality. Although Whitman did not come out and say directly that he was gay, many readers implied it.
My point is, although Whitman's poetry was admired back then also, when people focused on his sexuality, they tended to take away the meaning of his literature. However, nowadays, Whitman is one of the best poets ever, especially in my opinion. (: