Walt Whitman (1819-92) is the authentic voice of democratic America. After a childhood in Brooklyn, he spent many years in and around Manhattan and Washington, where he witnessed troops returning from the Civil War and tended wounded soldiers in the camp hospitals. Whitman's broad humanity, his love of cities (especially Manhattan), his sympathy with all conditions of people, and his visionary - even prophetic - sense of the reality of the American dream make him as much a poet for our time as he was for the time of the American Civil War and its aftermath. This selection of courageous and consoling poems focuses on Whitman's vision of democracy, his love of Manhattan, his sense of the future - and of the community of peoples of this earth.
Born 1819 in Long Island, New York, Whitman began working at the early age of 13, having left school the year before. He was an office boy, then a printer's assistant on several of the newspapers around New York. Occasionally he contributed articles to the papers, writing some of the earliest reports of baseball games. From 1836-1841 he taught in schools in the Long Island area, then founded and edited the newspaper The Long Islander from 1836-1841. Later he worked as as editor of the paper Brooklyn Eagle, though he was fired because of his antislavery views. It wasn't until 1848 that he began seriously to apply himself to poetry, self-publishing Leaves of Grass, a compilation of 12 of his poems. This drew the praise of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who proclaimed in a letter to Whitman: "I greet you at the beginning of a new career." Whitman published a second volume of poems, Drum Taps, in 1865, which was better received by the public. Whitman died in Camden in 1892.