City of Superb Democracy
A study of how New York City is perceived in Walt Whitman’s poetry.
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The paper analyzes several of American poet, Walt Whitman’s poems to show how he viewed Manhattan and New York. It describes Whitman’s expression of optimism and hope through his poetry and his ideals for a better society.
Living in New York had a profound effect on Whitman as his liberal temperament absorbed sophisticated radical philosophies. His unique free verse style and rhythmic innovations erupted in strong antithesis to the rigid rhyming and structural patterns previously essential to the sentimental verse of the 1840s. Whitman’s defiant break with traditional poetic concerns and style sent liberating convulsions through American thought and literature. In his 1855 preface to first edition of Leaves of Grass, Whitman proclaimed his new democratic poetry, commensurate with a people (7). Whitman himself would be the new American bard, but true to his democratic style he would encourage competitors. They would be equal, sharing members of the kosmos. For the American way, according to Whitman, was sure to spread to the world and the universe, because at its heart it was identified with divinity.