Walt Whitman was born May 31, 1819. He was one of the most influential American poets, and was also a journalist and essayist.
Many know Whitman for his writing, but he was also a famous resident of New York City —born in Brooklyn, he lived on his own in the city from the age of 15. He worked as a volunteer nurse during the Civil War and this experience impacted his work considerably.
His writing is full of colloquialisms but encompasses many aspects of the human experience, and always conveys his love of being alive and love for humanity.
“This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men — go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers of families — re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body.”
—Walt Whitman, preface to Leaves of Grass
Poetry is meant to be read aloud, so try this downloadable audiobook of Whitman's first (and arguably his best) collection of poetry.
Whitman's thoughts and beliefs from his later years are collected in this book.
Want to share the joy of Whitman with your children? This book is a great place to start!
Stream this video to learn more about Whitman and his art.