Sunday, 1 May 2016

Writing - Walt Whitman's legacy

Walt Whitman is considered a US literary giant but that wasn't always the case.

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Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892)

Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works.

Whitman was the USA's poet in the same vane as Virgil, Homer 

and Plato but in his early life he made a living as a journalist 

working for a small newspaper in New York. He also worked as a 

teacher and government clerk. All of the time he wrote poetry and 

was influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Alan Poe.


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In 1855 Whitman self-published Leaves of Grass, which was described as obscene for its overt sexuality. He was, it is said, trying to connect with ordinary people. Throughout the time he was writing his poetry he was also trying to make a living and he left an interesting legacy.

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In 1858, under a pseudonym, Whitman wrote 'Manly Health and Training'.

It contains multitudes of tips on topics such as diet, sex, and hygiene.
The 47,000-word series, which survived only in a few libraries, was discovered in a digitalised newspaper database by a graduate student last year.
It is now being published by the online journal The Walt Whitman Quarterly Review.
US commentators point out that some of Whitman's health advice sounds surprisingly modern.
"Let the main part of the diet be meat, to the exclusion of all else," one entry reads - a exhortation that both The New York Times and Time Magazine say would be endorsed by today's paleo-diet advocates.
Whitman also recommended the general use of the comfortable shoes "now specially worn by base-ball players" - trainers, as we would call them today.
He also warned against the ravages of desk jobs. "To you, clerk, literary man, sedentary person, man of fortune, idler, the same advice. Up!"


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The message has to be that irrespective of the main thrust of your writing, whatever you write, whether it be in a blog, articles or poetry; there may come a time when it becomes useful and relevant. Whitman's advice on health contains information that is as relevant in this century as it was in the nineteenth.

Finally, a sample of his work.

A Noiseless Patient Spider

Related Poem Content Details

A noiseless patient spider, 
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated, 
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding, 
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself, 
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them. 

And you O my soul where you stand, 
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space, 
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them, 
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold, 
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

God Bless