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Walt Whitman, half-length portrait, seated, facing left, wearing hat and sweater, holding butterfly

[Detail] Walt Whitman holding butterfly

Style

After students have read some of Whitman's poetry, discuss the characteristics of his style. These characteristics can be brought into relief by comparing Whitman's work with that of other writers such as his contemporary, Emily Dickinson. What information or feelings does the style of a poem convey? How, when, and why do writers develop their own styles or use pre-established styles? How does a poet gain support for a new style of writing? Students can inform their discussion by reading Ralph Waldo Emerson's supportive letter to Walt Whitman in Words and Deeds in American History. With a grasp of the elements of poetic style, students can write their own poems in the style of a poet of their choice, or in their own style.