6 November, 2009 — Global Research
If you want to get an idea of what America once was like, read the poems of Walt Whitman.Whitman was born on Long Island in 1819 and grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. His family was poor, but even though he left school at the age of 11 he gave himself an education by reading and working in the printing shop of a newspaper until he gradually became a published writer. He worked as a teacher and news reporter and owned his own newspaper by the age of 20.
In 1848 Whitman was a delegate to the founding convention of the Free Soil Party. During the Civil War he worked as a nurse in Union military hospitals and held several government jobs, including interviewing Confederate prisoners for pardons. Some of his greatest poems came from his war experiences, including his famous elegy upon the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, “Oh Captain! My Captain!” His great collection of poems, Leaves of Grass, was self-published. He died a national hero in 1892 in Camden, New Jersey, where thousands of people came to pay their respects.
Whitman has always been viewed as a poet of the people, in contrast to the pretentious dandies from academia who have controlled official American culture for much of our history. He wrote of workmen, farmers, sailors, soldiers, lovers, criminals, and prostitutes.