What creates the poetry style of a well-known American poet such as Walt Whitman? Whitman’s use of poetry techniques makes him the recognized poet that he is today. Whitman is a poet whose poems often concentrated on himself or the world around him. He was one of the first poets of his time to use free verse and traditional poetry writing techniques. The use of these techniques and more create Whitman’s unique poetry style that set him apart from both modern day and poets of his time.
In many of Whitman’s poems, he uses repetition, and more specifically, he uses anaphora. Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of a line of literature. This is often used to show emphasis and creates a more descriptive and emotional effect. Anaphora is seen in poems such as “American Feuillage” when Whitman states “Always Florida’s green peninsula! Always the priceless delta of Lousiana! Always the cotton-fields of Alabama and Texas / Always California’s golden hills and hollows—and the silver mountains of New Mexico! Always soft-breath’d Cuba!” (3-4) Another example of anaphora in Whitman’s poetry is when Whitman states “And I dream’d I went where they had buried him I love—but he was not in that place; / And I dream’d I wander’d, searching among burial-places, to find him; / And I found that every place was a burial-place…” (2-4) in “Of Him I Love Day and Night”
Another technique that Whitman often uses in his poems is imagery. Whitman uses language to vividly describe something or someone to the reader. This creates a more exact image and allows the reader to visualize what the poet is talking about. Whitman specifically uses imagery to create a clear image for the reader and allow the reader to more thoroughly understand his poetry.
Imagery is used in Walt Whitman’s “Roots and Leaves Themselves Alone” when he states, “Breast-sorrel and pinks of love—fingers that wind around tighter than vines, / Gushes from the throats of birds, hid in the foliage of trees, as the sun is risen” (3-4). “Late in the afternoon, the mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing in the Great Dismal Swamp- there are the greenish water, the resinous odor, the plenteous moss, the cypress tree, and the juniper tree” (41), is an example of when Whitman used imagery to create a clear image of the setting of the poem. This thorough description allows the reader to visualize and feel as if they were in the setting described.
Whitman often uses personification in his poetry to create a clear description of something. For example, Whitman states “Always these compact lands- lands tied at the hips with the belt stringing the huge oval lakes” (11) in “American Feuillage”. In “Says”, Whitman uses personification to describe a situation and uses figurative language to clearly express his ideas when saying, “I say where liberty draws not the blood out of slavery, there draws the blood out of liberty” (6).
Whitman is known for his use of free verse. In contrast to tradition poetry, free verse is poetry that does not have limitations in terms of a rhyme scheme. This allows the poet to have the opportunity to openly express ideas. Free verse is seen in most of Whitman’s poems such as in “Of Him I Love Day and Night”. “And now I am willing to disregard burial-places, and dispense with them; / And if the memorials of the dead were put up indifferently everywhere, even in the room where I eat or sleep, I should be satisfied…” (10-11). Another one of Whitman’s many poems including free verse is “Roots and Leaves Themselves Alone”. This can be seen in lines such as “If you bring the warmth of the sun to them, they will open, and bring form, color, perfume, to you; / If you become the aliment and the wet, they will become flowers, fruits, tall branches and trees” (9-10).
A poet’s use of poetry techniques creates a poet’s unique style, and Walt Whitman is no different. His use of anaphora, free verse, imagery, and personification are only a few of the many techniques that Whitman used in him many poems. Whitman’s combination of poetry techniques and his usage of them has established him as the controversial, innovative, and influential poet that he is today.