Where to begin? Whitman has a wonderful grasp of the English language. His poems are perfect for reading out loud and sound beautiful when they are. By the details that he includes in his poems it sounds like he was greatly educated in geography, history and literature and that he might have done a great deal of travelling (not just around the US but the world as well).
He seemed to like writing very short or very long poems (few are what I would call an average length). Some of his short poems end very abruptly and left me with a feeling of incompleteness. But others I did enjoy. His longest and most well known poem ‘Song of Myself’ I felt was far too long. I didn’t have the time to sit down and read the whole thing at one time, and that ruined it a bit for me. I feel a poem should be short enough to read in one sitting in order to grasp it as a whole. This issue did come up a few times due to his liking to write longer poems (in multiple numbered sections).
It seemed to me that this book of poems was a collection of Whitman’s observations, experiences and ideas that were sometimes hard to connect or to understand. At times what he says reminds me of the ancient Greek culture and how they worshiped the perfection of the human body (both male and female). It also reminds me at times of the Buddhist beliefs of how everybody and everything are connected. I am intrigued at how Whitman describes the terrible aspects of war (the injuries, death, grief etc) and yet still seems to support going to war. I think Whitman expresses his collective themes well in his poem ‘So Long’:
“I have sung the body and the soul, war and peace have I sung, and
the songs of life and death,
And the songs of birth, and shown that there are many births.”
Overall I didn’t really like his poems. I appreciate his ability but I don’t agree with the theology he proposes and am not always comfortable with what he implies. But mostly because, by the time I got to the end of the book I was frustrated that it wasn’t over yet and Whitman kept on going (even though it felt like he was repeating himself over and over again). I’m sad to say that I was disappointed in reading Whitman and won’t be reading this book again.