“Walt Whitman: Appreciation of the Human Body Through Poetry”

Essay by aatwoodHigh School, 11th gradeA+, April 2014

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Angelica Atwood

D. Salter

AP English 11

29 March 2013

"Walt Whitman: Appreciation of the Human Body Through Poetry"

Leaves of Grass, a collection of poems written by Walt Whitman has received much praise and protest over the century. It is known for its vulgarity, bluntness, and beauty. Many of Whitman's poems were considered sexual or could have been interpreted as sexual. The intense sexuality in these words can and does show his true appreciation for the human body; male and female. It is shown fully in his poems and quotes.

In 1855, the first edition of Leaves of Grass was self published. Many famous writers and poets of the time wrote of his poems calling them 'reckless', 'muck', and worse. Even still, Whitman fought back, writing in newspapers and writing letters. Whitman got as much protest as he got praise. Such praise came from Ralph Waldo Emerson, "I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of Leaves of Grass.

I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed" (1855, p.145). Emerson wrote Whitman a letter praising him for Leaves of Grass. "I greet you at the beginning of a great career, which yet must have had a long foreground somewhere, for such a start" (Emerson, 1855).

With praise came protest. Rufus Griswold wrote insultingly about Whitman. "for it is impossible to imagine how any man's fancy could have conceived such a mass of stupid filth, unless he were possessed of the soul of a sentimental donkey that had died of disappointed love" (Griswold, 1855). Griswold, being a Christian, was very against what Whitman did and stood for.

Henry David Thoreau also had a fancy for Whitman and Leaves of Grass. After receiving the second edition of Leaves of...