Friday, 26 March 2010
On this day...
American poet Walt Whitman, the 'Father of free verse', died in 1892, at the age of 72. Born into a family struggling with economic difficulties, Whitman was forced to finish formal education at 11 and seek work. Starting as a lawyer's office boy, Whitman later became a printer's apprentice, learning both about the press and typesetting. He could be said that it was from here that his literary career began, for soon afterwards, having worked for another printer, he became the editor of a weekly-published newspaper.
For the next 15 years, Whitman worked intermittently as teacher, editor, typesetter, and freelance writer, struggling to find solace and financial security. It was then that his most famous work was written and published, 'The Leaves of Grass'; a collection of poetry, first paid for with his own money, which he continuously revised throughout his lifetime. During the civil war, affected by scenes of death and wounded soldiers, Whitman became a volunteer nurse. Whitman's lifetime remains a series of unanswered questions; his faith, beliefs and sexuality are still, for the large part unknown, yet he is referenced in a famous quotation by one Oscar Wilde, 'I have the kiss of Walt Whitman still on my lips'.