A pioneer of American poetry, Walt Whitman broke with traditional poetic conventions of rhyme and meter to specialize in free verse. His aim was to authentically capture American experience, which he did by eschewing pretentious diction in favor of the more down-to-earth language of everyday people. While he was known to invent new words or borrow esoteric and foreign language in his work, this is generally interpreted as a sign of his originality and creativity, rather than as elitism.Continue Reading
Part of Whitman's vernacular approach to poetry was to use a first-person perspective, placing his own human perspective at the forefront of his work.
He has been compared to Wordsworth in his emphasis on democratizing poetry; however, he was markedly less romantic than Wordsworth in his treatment of themes and subject matter. Rather than seeking to idealize human experience, it was Whitman's aim to portray it as it appeared to him. As a result, his poetry makes use of little figurative language such as metaphors.
His approach to describing the communion between people was not restricted to the spiritual but also took into account the physical or sexual, even where this involved homosexual relations. His poems, including his most famous work "Leaves of Grass," were often the subject of controversy.Learn more about Poetry