Walt Whitman Background on Poetry

The following elements of style are frequently evident in Whitman’s poetry.

1. Written in free verse, no rhyme or meter.
2. Long flowing lines (some say there is a pattern: opening lines short, middle lines long,
closing lines short)
3. Use of Cataloguing: the listing of ideas, concepts, images
4. Use of Anaphora: repetition at the beginning of lines
5. Inclusion of Parallel Structure: use of and repetition of sentence patterns
6. Sensory Imagery: tactile, visual, auditory, gustatory, olfactory
7. Vernacular Diction: common language, slang, informal
8. Specific Jargon/Diction: word choice that borrows words from anatomy, war, nautical
concepts, and astronomy
9. Persona: a role or character in a poem
10. Cadence: heard when read orally, the rhythmic rise and fall of the voice often in oratory

The following ideas are often the basis of Whitman’s themes:

1. Love of the common man: the workingman or women, the “roughs”
2. Horrors of War: The Civil War, the suffering and futility
3. Love of America: its variety, its diversity, the landscapes
4. Love of city life: especially Manhattan, the teeming streets loud with talking and
5. Love of the sea: its timelessness, its beauty
6. Love of the human body: the beauty, the sensual nature
7. Appreciation of music: especially opera, songs in nature (wind, birds)
8. Appreciation of nature: especially small often insignificant things like ants, blades of
grass, etc.
9. Admiration of President Lincoln
10. Sympathy and empathy for the slaves

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