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Whitman and Dickinson



Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

bulletCalled the “poet of American democracy
bulletCelebrated the common man and common ordinary “things”
bulletEvery kind of person can be seen in his poetry.
bulletMost famous work is a book of poems entitled Leaves of Grass
bulletIn his poetry, grass symbolizes growth.
bulletWrote free verse (poetry with no rhyme or set meter)
bulletKnown for cataloging (listing) and for parallel structure in his poetry
bulletFocused much of his writing on the Civil War
bulletOne of the strongest themes in Whitman’s poetry is the celebration of work and the universal lot (fate) of ordinary people.
bulletLiterary Terms for Whitman
bulletFree Verse, Cataloging, Parallel Structure, Theme

 Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

bulletBorn in Amherst, MA, lived in Amherst, died in Amherst
bulletCommon theme in her poetry: faith
bulletHer poetry celebrates nature, describes love, and personifies death.
bulletThe great mystery in Emily Dickinson is that she could so insightfully describe life when she herself was closed off from the world during the last ten years of her life.  What she knew of life she learned through books and by observing nature in her garden.
bulletShe uses epigrammatic imagery—stating profound (deep) subjects in something small.
bulletShe describes love as “anterior to Life— / Posterior—to Death, / Initial of Creation, / and The Exponent (real power) of Earth—
bulletWrites primarily in quatrains (four line stanzas), uses lots of dashes, unusual capitalization, and both exact and slant (approximate, off) rhyme
bulletLiterary Terms for Dickinson
bulletExact Rhyme, Slant Rhyme, Personification, Apostrophe, Diction, Analogy, Symbol, Mood, Alliteration, Tone