Impact of Leaves of Grass on American Poetry

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In his essay "The Poet," Ralph Waldo Emerson called for a poet who could move beyond artistic trivialities and capture the true essence of the American spirit. Heavily influenced both by Emerson and the Transcendentalist movement, Walt Whitman answered this call in his poetry collection entitled "Leaves of Grass." Though it was the source of much controversy during its time, "Leaves of Grass" has had a foundational impact on modern American poetry and continues to shape the poetic form to this very day. Whitman's early career can be quite frankly described as inconsequential. From his late teens to his mid-thirties, Whitman worked at various editing and teaching jobs while dabbling in freelance fiction and poetry. After growing restless from, as he put it, "competing for the usual rewards", Whitman began work on "Leaves of Grass" at the age of thirty-one, finishing the first edition five years later. The collection was largely criticized as being obscene and sexually offensive, though Emerson praised it as "the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed." "Leaves of Grass" was largely misunderstood during the time of its publication, mainly because it was written in a poetic style that had not really been seen up until that point. Whitman's form, language, rhythm, and meter were all considered to be unusual by many 19th century critics and yet distinctly shaped "Leaves of Grass" as an American masterpiece. Whitman wrote the collection in free verse, a form that follows no regular stylistic pattern. This form, seen predominantly in the poem "Song of Myself", while criticized for being reckless and disorganized, influenced many modernist poets such as Ezra Pound and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Repetitive and reiterative devices in such poems as "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" ("blow! blow! blow!") was also a stylistic technique

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