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Dickinson Vs Whitman

Two Poets, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson are probably two of the most influential people in American poetry. They are regarded as the founders modern American poetry. Walt Whitman (1819-1892), for the time was breaking new ground with his diverse, energetic verse with regards to subject matter, form and style whether talking about overlooked objects in nature such as a single blade of grass or even our own hearing. Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) while living a life of seclusion, never really leaving her birthplace, was very adventurous internally. She was well read in English literature, often deeply exploring her own thoughts. While Dickinson and Whitman are referred to as the founders of modern American poetry, they are strikingly different. While Whitman’s poems are large and expansive, the lines long and visually descriptive, Dickinson’s works, in contrast, are highly compressed, squeezing moments of intense emotions and thought into tight four line stanzas which contract feeling and condense thought. If one was to compare Whitman’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry with works of Dickinson’s such as After a great pain, a formal feeling comes And Remorse-is Memory-Awake, the differences with regards to the use of words to convey feelings or emotions becomes apparent between the two poets. In Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Whitman attempts to transcend time and place, ?The similitudes of the past and those of the future?. This becomes even more apparent when the second stanza is read, when he speaks of others, ?Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore to shore, Others will watch the run of the flood-tide, Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and the heights of Brooklyn to the south and east. It is here that Whitman directly engages his audience and later he says, ? Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt?. He strives to break down boundaries, abolish differences, and eliminate separateness. Whitman is speaking directly to us, here and now, generations later. He is also quite clear on what direction he wants us to go as he maps it out smoothly with his words. Emily Dickinson, however, in contrast does not lay out such a clear path with her words. She plants them in the audiences’ mind instead, like a seed, where, when given some thought it will grow and possibly then be understood. After great pain, a formal feeling comes is a good example of how she is not quite as clear as Whitman is. She writes ?The stiff Heart questions was it he, that bore, And yesterday, or centuries before? The reader can not gain a sense of what exactly she is talking about. ?This is the hour of lead-Remembered if Outlived, As freezing persons, recollect the snow-First ?chill-then Stupor-then the letting go?. When she writes Remorse-is Memory-awake she talks about the emotion or feeling of remorse lies in people’s memories and no one can cure that feeling. ?Remorse-is Memory-awake Her parties all stir?, ?Its past-set down before the Soul? and ?Remorse is cureless-the Disease Not even God-can heal-For ?tis his institution and The Adequate of hell? One can see that Dickinson is not as clear as Whitman and the emotion she puts in her works is tightly compacted. One must often read her works several times to further gain an understanding of it. Whitman and Dickinson although regarded as the pioneers in American modernism in poetry still definitely differ in their styles. Whitman is very much the realist, painting a clear picture in the reader’s minds of what he wants them to see, directing them where to go. Dickinson is more of an impressionist, projecting carefully chosen words to her canvas that read like a puzzle that must be put together first.
English Essays


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