The Purpose of Poetry: Exploring Walt Whitman's Perspective

Categories: Walt Whitman


Every poem serves as a response to a fundamental question: What is poetry for? This question lies at the heart of the poet's craft, and Walt Whitman, one of America's greatest poets, grappled with it profoundly in his work. In "Song of Myself" and his magnum opus "Leaves of Grass," Whitman embarked on a poetic journey to explore the purpose of poetry, and his answers resonate deeply with the human experience.

Whitman's Vision of Poetry

Within the first poem of his collection, "One's Self I Sing," Whitman sets the stage for what his poetry aims to achieve.

He proclaims, "Of Life immerse in passion, pulse, and power... The Modern Man I sing." For Whitman, poetry becomes the chosen medium to celebrate the triumph of the self and the essence of life itself. His verses resound with the idea that one must celebrate their innate propensities and the natural aspects of existence. This celebration of life becomes the central theme that reverberates throughout Whitman's body of work.

Get quality help now
Prof. Finch
Prof. Finch
checked Verified writer

Proficient in: Free Essays

star star star star 4.7 (346)

“ This writer never make an mistake for me always deliver long before due date. Am telling you man this writer is absolutely the best. ”

avatar avatar avatar
+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

Celebration of Life

Whitman's poetry is an exuberant celebration of life in all its forms. He believes in rejoicing in the present moment, respecting the past, and envisioning the future. Two of his poems, "I project the history of the future" and "I raise the present of the past," capture his philosophy. Whitman encourages us to savor the present because the past is irretrievable, and the future remains uncertain. His poetry becomes a philosophical discourse, a medium through which he can share his insights and sensibilities about life.

Get to Know The Price Estimate For Your Paper
Number of pages
Email Invalid email

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

"You must agree to out terms of services and privacy policy"
Write my paper

You won’t be charged yet!

Personal Expression and Connection

Poetry serves as Whitman's means of self-expression and connection with his readers. He writes because he feels compelled to do so, driven by the desire to share the unique experiences that have shaped his life. In "Song of Myself," he addresses his readers directly, stating, "Thou Reader throbbest life and pride and love the same as I. Therefore, for thee, the following chants." Through his poems, Whitman invites readers to join him on a journey of self-discovery and exploration.

Whitman's poetry is a silent exchange of thoughts, a dialogue between the poet and the reader. He uses his verses to question our perspectives directly and engage us in contemplation. His poems become a conduit for personal expression while offering readers a chance to experience life through his unique lens.

Poetry as a Reflection of Truth

For Whitman, poetry serves as a mirror that reflects the truth of existence. He is obsessed with unearthing the hidden realities of life, and he is often referred to as the "Poet of Science." In "Song of the Answerer," Whitman sets high standards for his poems, declaring, "The words of true poems do not merely please; the words of true poems are the tuft and final applause of science." His poems are intended to penetrate the surface and reveal the unseen truths of the world.

Whitman's poetry strives to remove the veil from what is known, allowing others to perceive the beauty and depth beneath the familiar. He invites readers to stand by his side and look into the mirror of his words, emphasizing that his compositions are a means to share his unique perspective on reality.

Leaves of Grass: A Testament to Life

The title of Whitman's magnum opus, "Leaves of Grass," encapsulates his conviction that even the simplest elements of life hold profound significance. In his poem "What is the grass?," Whitman ponders the complexity of something as seemingly ordinary as grass, highlighting that the most straightforward aspects of life can carry deep meaning. He reflects on the innocence of a child's question about the grass, underscoring that profound truths often dwell within the seemingly mundane.

Preserving Moments in Time

Whitman's poetry serves as a historical record, immortalizing moments in time. Many of his poems, particularly those found in "Drum-Taps" and "Memories of President Lincoln," capture the essence of the Civil War. Having worked as a nurse during the war, Whitman used his poetry to provide a personal account of the conflict. In "The Wound-Dresser," he vividly recalls the soldiers he cared for, describing the intimate moments he shared with them. His poems offer an intimate perspective on history, allowing readers to connect with the past on a personal level.

Observation and Immortality

Whitman's keen observation skills are evident in his poetry, where he meticulously records the details of daily life. From the grandeur of "The President holding a cabinet council" to the simplicity of "the shoemaker waxes his thread," Whitman leaves no one and nothing forgotten. His commitment to celebrating all forms of life, regardless of their social status, is evident in lines like, "I will not have a single person slighted or left away" ("Song of Myself"). Through his lyrical presentation of the ordinary, Whitman bestows a form of immortality upon the seemingly insignificant, ensuring their place in history.

Poetry as a Voice for the Marginalized

Whitman's poetry aligns with the tradition of literature championing the underdogs of society. He asserts that he doesn't play marches exclusively for the accepted victors but also for the conquered and the fallen. His verses invite everyone, regardless of their station in life, to join in the celebration. In Whitman's eyes, there is no significant difference between heroes and the slain; all deserve recognition and remembrance.


Walt Whitman's exploration of the purpose of poetry reveals that it serves a multifaceted role in human existence. His poetry celebrates life, offers a medium for personal expression and connection, reflects profound truths, and immortalizes moments in time. Through his keen observations and commitment to inclusivity, Whitman ensures that even the most ordinary aspects of life find a place in the annals of history. Ultimately, poetry provides a unique perspective into the human experience, allowing us to delve beyond surface appearances and gain a deeper understanding of life's complexities.

Updated: Nov 13, 2023
Cite this page

The Purpose of Poetry: Exploring Walt Whitman's Perspective. (2021, Sep 16). Retrieved from

The Purpose of Poetry: Exploring Walt Whitman's Perspective essay
Live chat  with support 24/7

👋 Hi! I’m your smart assistant Amy!

Don’t know where to start? Type your requirements and I’ll connect you to an academic expert within 3 minutes.

get help with your assignment