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One of America’s most revered and influential poets,

Walt Whitman was born on Long Island, New York (1819)

into a family of modest means.

Mostly self-taught, Whitman was an insatiable reader.

He first worked as a school teacher in one-room classrooms

and later turned to a career in journalism

as a writer and an editor.

 

An acute observer of the ‘American way of life’,

he utilised his position as a newspaper editor

to support women’s strife for property equality

to denounce slavery

to highlight labour issues.

Given the era on the American historical time-line,

Whitman was considered by many to be a radical thinker.

He turned to penning poetry as a literary means

to express his observations of life in America:

the good, the bad, the hopes, the aspirations,

the dreams for freedom, the struggles for equality.

His writing technique is that of free verse,

a rhythm of natural speech, a conversation with readers.

Walt Whitman self-published his celebrated volume of poetry

Leaves of Grass (1855).

He would continue to update, change and re-arrange

the work throughout the years.

I Hear America Singing

(published in the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass)

is a poem akin to a song with lyrics, which

describe the diversity within a country that

aspires to be as one.

 

 

A voice of America

walt whitman, portrait

Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892)

 

 

 …

 

I Hear America Singing

by Walt Whitman

 

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,

The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,

The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,

The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,

The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,

The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,

The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,

Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,

The day what belongs to the day — at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,

Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.