Born: May 31, 1819
West Hills, New York
Died: March 26, 1892
Camden, New Jersey
LIFE BEFORE POETRY
Second of nine children.
He attended school in Brooklyn until age 11.
He taught school at age 17 on Long Island.
He was mainly self-taught, therefore read at a
In 1841, he turned to journalism as a full-time
He founded the weekly newspaper Long-Islander.
Largely self-taught, Walt Whitman was
living in New York by age 14, supporting
himself by learning to set type.
Whitman self-published Leaves of
Grass in 1855, when he was 36 years old.
Remarkable American poet. He broke all the
literary rules, discarding rhyme and form in
favor of free verse, and he also fought societal
convention by speaking fearlessly about his
His poem “O Captain! My Captain!” in memory
of Abraham Lincoln is one of the most patriotic
in American history. Few poets have ever come
close to matching his genius and wit.
during the Civil
became a nurse,
spending most of
time helping to
His admirers have
from Lord Alfred
Tennyson to Jack
Whitman died in Camden, New Jersey, in 1892. He
designed his own tomb. It reads simply, “Walt Whitman.”
Considered to be the most important American poet of
the nineteenth century.
His first novel, Franklin Evans.
Many of his four hundred
poems contain musical
terms, names of
instruments, and names of
composers. Themes relating to the soul, death, and
Whitman received little acclaim during his lifetime
and often struggled to support himself. He lived on a
clerk's salary and modest royalties, and spent any
excess money, including gifts from friends, to buy
supplies for the patients he nursed. He had also been
sending money to his widowed mother and an
invalid brother. From time to time writers both in the
states and in England sent him "purses" of money so
that he could get by.
WALT WHITMAN AWARD
Brings first-book publication, a cash prize of $5,000
A one-month residency at the Vermont Studio Center to an American who
has never before published a book of poetry.
The winning manuscript, chosen by an eminent poet, is published by
Louisiana State University Press.
The Academy purchases copies of the book for distribution to its members.
The award was established in 1975 to encourage the work of emerging poets
and to enable the publication of a poet's first book.
O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!
O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearfultripis done;
The shiphas weathered every rack, the prize we sought is
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captainlies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths—for you the shores
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchored safe and sound, its voyage closed and
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead
O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!
Walt Whitman wrote the poem
after Abraham Lincoln's
assassination. The "ship" spoken of
is intended to represent the United
States of America, while its "fearful
trip" recalls the troubles of
the American Civil War.
The titular "Captain" is Lincoln