Is Walt Whitman's poetry devoid of structure or shape
Walt Whitman is the typical poet that composes his poems based on the traditionally recognized forms of poetic structure and prose. His poems are unique and often appear to be unorganized in the most unorthodox of ways. Because of this, his poems might depict a lack in structure or pose. However, according to the fundamental forms of poetic structure, most of his poems do have a structure and shape needed to qualify them as poems. They are not easily recognizable, but that does not warrant their absence. Structure in poetry is inclusive of the arrangement of lines or stanzas that is used to give a particular effect to the meaning the poet seeks to convey. Shape in poetry refers to how the words are arranged, and rhythm is achieved (Roza, Greg, 23). The two are inseparable because they help in conveying a message to the audience with a particular effect to the intentions of the poem.
”From I Sing the Body Electric” was composed by Whitman. In the structure of this poem, the poet incorporates end-stopped lines. The lines have commas in the end to facilitate the continuation of the message in the poem. By using commas in the end, the poet showcased a continuation of ideas behind his lines.
The message of the poem is to describe how the wholesome individual, with his body and soul, relates to his poems. He describes all the parts of the human body to showcase all the parts of an individual that are attuning to the singing in his poetry. The purpose of the end-stopped lines, therefore, was used to show the continuation of the mentioning of the body parts to show the magnitude of the impact of his poetry. Additionally, the structure used run-on lines, which concentrate on punctuations in the middle of the lines to give more attention to a particular word or concept especially when the poem is recited. For instance, he says,” eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye” to lure the reader into paying attention to the word eye (line 5). What is achieved in the poem is that it stresses the observation that the reader makes on his poems. The poet uses lines that vary in length and run freely, which is also a concept of structure that is accepted in poetry. However, the poem does not use stanzas in its structure because it does not represent different ideas. It is one block of a single idea.
Even so, the poem does have a shape. The words are chosen strategicallyto create a rhythm that seeks to emphasize its message (Meyer, Michael, 43). Whitman adopts repetition to achieve the aspect of rhythm, which is a major factor that forms the shape of the poem. For example, the poem says, “I believe the likes of you,” twice (line 2 and 3). There are other repeated words in the poem that help to give it rhythm and flow especially when the poet describes the body parts. Furthermore, he begins most of his lines with the word “the” which is powerful on stressing the message and rhythm when the poem is read aloud (lines 28-32).
Another poem by Whitman is “oneself I sing.” The poem has the kind of structure that is considered as a standard or usual structure of any poem. It has lines that run normally and is divided into three stanzas that have short sentences. The sentences use commas between the lines to stress particular words that have been chosen with diction. Without the words, the poem would not have the same effect it intends to on an audience. Such words help to form the shape of the poem. For example, the poem says,” Of life immense in passion, pulse, and power.” By using commas between the words, emphasis is generated on passion, pulse and power (line 1, stanza 3). The words were chosen to showcase the strength of the intensity the act of singing is supposed to generate. They help the reader to understand the depth of the singing being done in the poem. Additionally, the poem has used rhyme as a foundation of its shape. The words “Ising” have been repeated at the end of the lines in the second stanza, which highlights the use of rhyme by Whitman. Additionally, the same style is depicted when the poem says, “from the top to the toe I sing.” The words help in the creation of a rhythm that could make the poem sound like the song being sung in it. The poem talks about the passion of singing and how one is supposed to sing with all their physical and emotional sense. The above shape and structure used helps to convey this message.
The last poem for evaluation is “Calvary crossing a ford” by the same poet. It also adopts the use of long and unique sentencing in the formation of its lines. The sentences are equally distributed, in the sense that they run as long and short throughout the poem. The words, “each group, each person” help to stress the point that everybody was involved in the activity that was taking place. Such words helped to form the shape of the poem. Additionally, the poet uses diction when he uses the word “gaily,” which also embraces the element of personification in his poem (line 9). The word is supposed to showcase the emotion of the day. From all the above, it is clear that Walt Whiteman’s poems have shape and structure. It might not be obvious, but upon close analysis, the aspects of shape and structure can be seen in his poetic works.
Meyer, Michael, Ed. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's 2012. 790. Print.
Roza, Greg. Patterns in Poetry: Recognizing and Analyzing Poetic Form and Meter. New York: Power Kids Press, 2005. Print.