Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson

Screen Shot 2019-08-21 at 4.37.37 pm

These are two of the greatest American poets of the Nineteenth Century. You are going to love their insights, their passion and their originality. Please go and read carefully the introductions to both poets in either volume of the 2 Anthologies: page 1070 and page 1246 in Volume 1 (The Norton Anthology of American Literature Shorter 9th Edition) OR page 21 and 82 in Volume 2.

You should also take a look at these wonderful films that will help you to contextualize your reading of both of these poets.

First try this 50 minute documentary that enlists the help of many well know poets to record their sense of what makes Whitman such an amazing, revolutionary writer:

Walt Whitman documentary : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZ_FIhj5JLI

You should also explore the Walt Whitman Archive at: https://whitmanarchive.org/

Emily Dickinson documentary : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFeYPCv5F48

A shorter, equally good documentary on Emily Dickinson can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ri1oPRnzEZ4

You will also find some great resources at the Emily Dickinson link on the Poetry Foundation web page: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/emily-dickinson

When you have exhausted all these resources take a look at some of the images that I will be talking to at next week’s lecture:

Whitman & Dickinson

Look through the list of poems in the last slide of Emily Dickinson and pick out those poems which appeal to you. Focus closely on the poems that you chose. Dickinson requires some deep contemplation.  For Walt Whitman read the first  “Song of Myself” (pages 1088-1132)- read it like a short story- it is only just over 40 pages! Read “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” (1135-1139) and read “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d) (1148-1154). Just sit back and enjoy the rapid movement of his poetry and don’t allow yourself to get stuck on things you don’t fully understand…

Please find the audios for the lecture and the tuts, together with white board images right here:



Blog Topics on Whitman and Dickinson:


1/ Write a poem in the style of Emily Dickinson beginning with any of the following opening lines:

A Bird, came down the Walk….

I head a Fly buzz – when I died-

I cannot live with you…

I started Early – took my Dog-

The Brain – wider than the Sky-

A narrow Fellow in the Grass…

2/ Write a poem in the style of Whitman beginning with the any of the following opening lines:

I believe a leaf of grass…

I think I could turn and live with animals…

Unscrew the locks from the doors…

The little one sleeps in its cradle…

I celebrate and sing myself…

3/  Give a brief account (in your own words) of why Whitman referred to Abraham Lincoln as “O Captain! My Captain”.

4/ If you have seen the film A Quiet Passion write a brief review of the film saying how it has opened your eyes to the kind of poet Emily Dickinson was.

5/ Create your own topic that weaves your impressions of either Whitman or Dickinson (or both) into a paragraph that expresses your sense of what is personally important about these two artists.

  3 comments for “Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson

  1. August 21, 2019 at 5:29 pm

    It’s a big blow for the Australians the loss of Steve Smith……hopefully the rest of the Aussie batsmen can rally round and cover up for Smith’s absence…..Jofra Archer was electric with his 96mph bowling and we may have James Anderson back for Headingly

  2. August 21, 2019 at 5:30 pm

    I was not aware of the poetry of Walt Whitman before reading this article…..his poetry is brilliant

    • August 30, 2019 at 5:44 am

      Thanks Keith…. I am sure he learned a great deal from our mutual friend Mr Shakespeare…..

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: