Leaves of Grass

The Thrust of Nature: An Examination of Walt Whitman's Poetic Realm

Walt Whitman's "Spontaneous Me" (Norton 2151-2152) crystallizes his attempt to create poems that appear natural, impulsive and untamed. The natural effect is a carefully crafted technique that appears throughout his writing, hinting at a philosophy of life while seeming to simply offer observation. As in "Song of Myself," Whitman weaves together carefully chosen images to create the illusion of untamed totality. What is important about his complete vision is that it seems somehow essential, as though a natural state is unveiled. He crafts a language that stems from natural rhythms, like the familiar feel of breathing. Human impulses become universal pulses and vice versa. This creates an elemental rhythm that governs the craft of the poem and much of its subject matter. "Spontaneous Me" is a deeply erotic meditation on the self. An important aspect of the poem is its whispered confessional quality. There is the sense that Whitman is searching for answers, if not redemption. The natural world provides the necessary soothing, making his poem a self-reflexive examination of the human as an earthbound element. The poem answers itself, by paralleling the greater natural world, which is established...

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