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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Uncle Walt

Although Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman are often paired together as "New" American poets--they were writing roughly around the same time, and they both broke away from the traditional meter embraced by the Romantics--they varied dramatically from each other in terms of personal and poetic style.

Think back to Emily Dickinson's photograph and her poetry for a moment. Then, click on the following link to browse pictures of Walt Whitman and to read his commentary on his own pictures: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/s_z/whitman/photos.htm

What can you infer about Walt Whitman from these pictures and captions? What questions do you have about him? How does he differ from Ms. Dickinson?

36 Comments:

Blogger J Hunt said...

From the pictures of Mr Whitman, I would say that he had ad much brighter view of life. He seems to have a more happy looking face than Dickinson. He probably liked wearing hats. He looks like a deep think. One who would contemplate the meanings of life and the origins. He and Darwin would probably have gotten along well!

10:30 AM  
Blogger J Hunt said...

Ha I beat Clay to the first post!

10:31 AM  
Blogger clay w said...

He looked much more social than Emily did. She looks very conservative in her pictures and he looks like he has an "in your face" attitude. He looks like his personality towards other people in life was much more light-hearted than Dickinson's. What was it that drove his life and his poetry? What was his inspiration? He and Ms. Dickinson differ in that she was much more secluded and he, at least from viewing pictures, looked much more social.

10:33 AM  
Blogger BessieS said...

Whitman looks much more relaxed than Emily Dickinson did in her photo. In his older photos he looks like he could be someone’s grandpa. His beard makes him look approachable and by the way he is standing he doesn’t look uptight like Dickinson did. I agree with Jordan and Clay that his view on life was probably much more positive and light-hearted than Dickinson’s. What did he write about, did he focus on one topic or write about a variety of topics like Dickinson?

12:54 PM  
Blogger Jennifer W said...

When looking at the pictures of Walt Whitman, I see exactly the opposite of Emily Dickinson. I see a fun loving person who loves and lives for life itself. He looks alot more relaxed as well. He cleary had a decent sense of humor judging by the what he said about the photo, "a sort of Moses in the burning bush look". His look, as Bessie said, is much more approachable than Emily Dickinson's and people probably wouldn't be afraid to approach him as they would Dickinson.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Jordyn S said...

After reading Whitman's comments about his appearance in each picture, I feel that he was very self concious, he has something negative to say about the way he looks in every picture, or questions his facial expressions as they have been characterized as resembling something else as if this worries him greatly. I think that Whitman was much more social than Dickinson, being as there are quite a bit more pictures of him then there are of her, so he had no trouble having his picture taken, just he didnt like looking at the final product. I also believe Whitman and Dickinson are similar, failry reserved in dress and obviously not spending a whole lot of time focusing on the way they look (Whitman doesn't look like he has shaved in weeks.) I think that Whitman was very in touch with a spiritual side of nature, he didnt feel he should shave because the hair just grew naturally, and that was the way things were supposed to be. That it should run its course, as he also demonstrated when he said he didn't like to retouch negatives because "the photograph has this advantage: it lets nature have its way" I think this differs from Dickinson's more emotional relationship with nature, finding her own comfort and sanity in it, molding it into what she wanted it to be, while Whitman just laid back and let things happen, not interfering at all.

2:43 PM  
Blogger jessicam said...

The pictures and captions definitely show Walt Whitman as a much more easy-going and social person. He seemed to interact with people, and had a good sense of humor, especially when describing himself. Jennifer W. talked about that in her post too. As other people have said, it can be assumed that his light-heartedness is connected to his poetry.
To conclude all of this, Mr. Whitman and Ms. Dickinson seem very polar to each other; black versus white. He seems socially accepted and friendly, while she seemed very reserved and slightly crazy.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Spencer Z said...

I agree with Jordyn's comment about his overwhelming self-conciousness. However, I believe that this degree of introspection allowed Whitman to write the level of poetry that he did. I also believe that this is where he is most similar to Dickinson. Presumably unique for its time, both authors display this self-searching in their writing.

The first things that I notice about Whitman's pictures are his eyes. They have much of the same depth and penetrating quality that Dickinson's do. Still, he has a certain ferocity, one might describe as a zest for life, that I do not see in Dickinson. I would like to know who Whitman's inspirations were since he influenced so many countless American poets.

3:31 PM  
Blogger kaitlinb said...

The pictures were like mountian men, he had a beard hiding his face. I am not sure he intentional tried to hide his face but his big white beard did so. He said that one picture he was told that he looked sorry for the world but the truth is that he loves the world. If this is true, which I have no evidence to prove other wise, then he is very different than Emily Dickinson. He also looked more social as clay said.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Jessica K said...

Walt Whitman seems like a very outgoing man that gets excited about living. He enjoys socializing where as Emily Dickinson was much more secluded and introverted. At some points in her poetry Emily almost looked forward to death. Walt was a really intriguing and approachable guy sometimes judging himself a bit too much from what his captions show. I do not think Emily cared what she looked like but Walt at least to some degree did, he just didn't want to appear fake. However, both were very unique for their time. I think they both look inward to get inspiration for some of their poetry. I wonder if the two poets were put in a room together would they clash or get along. That would be interesting to see.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Monique R said...

From the pictures and captions, I agree with Jordyn and Spencer, he seemed very self-conscious in his comments about them. Although he had doubts about himself, I think he also was a friendlier and more outgoing person than Dickinson, who would obviously have a very different style of poetry than her. Also, I think it's interesting that he had so many pictures taken of himself while there was only one of Emily Dickinson. That says a lot about their personalities.

5:20 PM  
Blogger mackenzieL said...

These pictures reveal a much different person than Emily Dickenson! Like Jen said, Walt Whitman seems to have a sense of humor and feels OK with making fun of himself. It also seems that Dickenson wrote poems because she didn't know what else to do with herself. Whitman seems like the kind of person to write poems because he wants to...he has the choice. Like Clay, I wonder why he chose to persue poetry when he could have done many other things.

P.S. I liked Jessica's comment about them being in the same room together and whether or not they would get along. I think it would be interesting

5:24 PM  
Blogger Anoel said...

I agree with Spencer in that Whitman's eyes jump out of me. They have a kind of shine in them that makes him look young and inteligent. I don't think he was vain, because in his pictures his stance and clothing looked a little "devil may care" to me. He seemed able to realize his physical flaws, but not scrutinize. I believe that Whitman was more full of life than Dickinson, who seems drained of joy.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Kelly O said...

From the pictures and his commentary, Walt seems completely different from Emily Dickenson. He looks much more relaxed, easy going, and normal. Like most people, he had something negative to say about almost every picture, but you could tell he did not care that much because he didn't like to retouch his negatives. He was much more social than Emily, and you can tell just by seeing the number of pictures taken of him. Based on his comments, he clearly has a good sense of humor and a happy outlook on life unlike Emily. He looks like an eccentric old man who was probably the life of the party.

5:42 PM  
Blogger emilee p said...

I disagree with Spencer and Jordyn and others when they say that Whitman is overly self- conscious, his commentary of the photographs seems to be a little self-critiquing, but not self- conscious. In the 1st two pictures especially, he seems to be fairly outgoing and eager to pose, however, he does say that he is worried about the sadness in his eyes. I think that his eyes do look sad and it is interesting he denies it; he seems to be bottling up a depression that is inside of him. Unlike Dickinson, who embraces her desires of death, Whitman seems to repress it and cover it up with fake happiness.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Erin G said...

Looking at Whitman's photographs, he seems much more confident and emotionally "sturdy." As with Emily, he doesn't seem too bothered by appearance and clothes. He also doesn't seem very lonely. He looks very rugged and kind of reminds me of some sort of mountain man. He seems much more satisfied with his social and personal life.

6:06 PM  
Blogger HUH? said...

Someone could describe Walt Whitman as a modest man through these series of pictures, but his comments of himself do not match what I see in him.

It seems that Whitman must comment on any small detail of himself; not the typical grandpa so to speak. The way he critiques himself gives an idea of how he perceives the world from his eyes. Spencer, Noel, and Emilee acknowledged his piercing eye that captivates ours the most, however Whitman describes his posture and state of the photograph. Examining his photo is one, but reading his works of writing, even small captions gives a different perspective of the real Whitman. From all of his criticism the most favorable picture he would have is him standing straight with no expression, though there would not be one because Whitman can not describe or criticize it himself.

6:37 PM  
Blogger nathan a said...

I agree with most of the posts in that he certainly had much more contact with fellow humans. First of all because he expresses this, and second of all because I doubt it is possible to be more secluded then Emily Dickenson. I can’t compare their poetry until I read his, however I disagree with Jordan S that Dickenson molded nature into what she wanted it to be. She wrote a line that says “So keep your secret father. I would not, if I could, know what the sapphire fellows do. In your new-fashioned world.” I think she embraced the mystery of nature and didn’t want to interfere either. Judging from the captions I think that Whitman’s thoughts were almost, or as deep as Dickenson’s. The chief difference as everyone has noted is that he is far less shy or self reserved.

6:47 PM  
Blogger shannon a said...

I feel that yes Mr. Whitman is like Emily Dickinson when she talks about death and darkness. But I feel that Whitman had a more brighter out look on life. "Many people think the dominant quality in Harrison's picture is its sadness," but he nevertheless liked the portrait "because it is natural, honest, easy: as spontaneous as you are, as I am, this instant, as we talk together." He thinks of things that other people would not have seen. I agree with spancer when he say's "The first things that I notice about Whitman's pictures are his eyes. They have much of the same depth and penetrating quality that Dickinson's do." His eyes have something as if a spark in them. Unlike Emily's they just seem dark and have not as lively.

7:02 PM  
Blogger shannon a said...

I feel that yes Mr. Whitman is like Emily Dickinson when she talks about death and darkness. But I feel that Whitman had a more brighter out look on life. "Many people think the dominant quality in Harrison's picture is its sadness," but he nevertheless liked the portrait "because it is natural, honest, easy: as spontaneous as you are, as I am, this instant, as we talk together." He thinks of things that other people would not have seen. I agree with spancer when he say's "The first things that I notice about Whitman's pictures are his eyes. They have much of the same depth and penetrating quality that Dickinson's do." His eyes have something as if a spark in them. Unlike Emily's they just seem dark and have not as lively.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Sarah D said...

After seeing the pictures of Walt Whitman, I concluded that he is much happier with himself and the world than Dickinson was. He is content with himself, but he always was criticizing something about himself in the pictures. Although he seems much happier as a person than Emily did, he still is self conscious about himself. He is also very pleased with the world around him, opposed to Dickinson. Whitman accepts the world as it is, and forgives people. What did Whitman write about, was there an ongoing theme or style that he used?

7:12 PM  
Blogger christine b. said...

Contrasting to Jordyn's comment, I believe that Whitman had a lot of self-confidence that showed in his overall appreciation for each picture after he had critiqued it. In Whitman's first picture, I immediately got the impression that he was both an arrogant and social person, both opposites of Ms. Dickinson. Also, in the second picture after reading his commentary I was impressed by how analytical he was of himself, yet he still liked the picture. As he got older, he began to realize his arrogance and it steadily decreased. In his last two pictures, although he still shows pride, he seems to carry an air about himself that one can not help but like and he strikes one as if he had a life filled with love.

7:19 PM  
Blogger EmilyL said...

Contrary to most of the blogs, I see several similarities between Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. While Whitman seemed to have been an extrovert and Dickinson an introvert, both poets have the same fire coming from their eyes. Both believed passionately in certain ideas, although their interpretations did vary. And both decided to express their deepest thoughts, dreams, and hopes through the written word.

I think that people ignore the fact that although Emily was reclusive in her lifestyle, she maintained an active correspondence with several people throughout her life. Because of this, I cannot help but think that Emily must have demonstrated the same humor and strength of personality through writing that Whitman presented in speaking.

The two poets remind me of two of the high school personalities: the outgoing, social character and the quiet, reserved individual. Although one is more vocal in their thoughts and beliefs, both posess a determination and strength that rises to the surface in different ways.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Sarah P said...

Looking at the first picture of Walt Whitman, he looks a lot more social than Emily Dickinson. He looks more natural in front of the camera, or at least like he has done that before. And he does look like Santa Claus in some of the pictures!

But after looking at some of the pictures, i want to know more about him. Like how old is he? Because even though he and Ms. Dickinson wrote around the same time he looks a great deal older than her. Also, did her write about death as much as Dickinson?

8:13 PM  
Blogger Lauren F. said...

I agree with what most people have said in that Whitman looks a little more relaxed and sociable. He looks very intelligent in his photographs and not as scary as Dickinson. Dickinson looks very creepy in her pictures and her expression on her face gives off a negative tone. Whitman's pictures are not like that to me. You can see that he was a confident man and that he had access to the outside world and spoke with other humans. I agree with Emily L. saying that both writeres believed in very similar ideas but had a totally different approach to how they expressed them.

8:13 PM  
Blogger erinl said...

Walt Whitman appears to be a lonely man, yet relaxed, therefore he does not have the same look of loneliness that Emily Dickinson displays. Like Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman's work can be described as "rude shock" because he wrote freely, going against the normal European poetry. Whitman and Dickinson both seemed very lonely; is this how "irregular" poets are? But are these feelings what made them influential to other American poets? Without feelings, it is very difficult to write a poem, and Whitman and Dickinson displayed their poems in a way that might not be easy for us to understand, but they understood it.

8:16 PM  
Blogger Megan D said...

I think that he was a more sophisticated and social man. It looks like he would have written things that were more positive about life, and some of his own experiences. He looks like he has seen the world, and he's very down to earth. I think that he was a bit happier than Emily and had a brighter outlook on life in general. I think that he really tried to enjoy life and get all that he could out of it. I think that in most ways, he and Emily are complete opposites.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Alyssag said...

I agree with Clay in that he did look more social than Emily did. I almost think that he looks like he is a sort of sarcastic or humorous person because of his expression. He looks slightly amused. I also agree with Jennifer when she says that he looks more relaxed than Emily. I think the similarity between them though, is that they both are self conscience in some way. Jordan said that he always had something to say about his appearance in each picture, and Emily was self conscience as well, but more with how others treated her. I think poetry helps these two individuals to express themselves and their deep insecurities for others to see, without confrontation. Alot of people vent through writing and dont even realize that they are letting out underlying thoguhts. One more similarity is that Walt looks like a mountain man in touch with nature, and we have discovered that Emily is very intact with nature as well.

8:39 PM  
Blogger ryan f said...

The thing that first popped out at me about Whitman was his eyes. They were very relaxed and calm where as Emily looked very distraught and serious about something. In his comments about the pictures, I could tell that Whitman seemed to have a bit more of a personality and could joke around about himself. Emily seemed very serious and reserved, as if she didn't have time or didn't want to joke around. Both Poets looked like they really didn't care too much about outside opinions and were a little bit mores sucluded than most normal people.

8:40 PM  
Blogger Kyle N said...

I agree with Jordan. Whitman seemed a lot happier during life, unlike Dickinson. Unlike Emily, Walt probably got out of his house every once and a while. Also, he probably did not have the fear of people that EMily seemed to have displayed. I think this is well mshown in his poems. Finally, Walt was obivously a much more outgoing person than Emily.

9:12 PM  
Blogger Natalie M said...

From these pictures and captions I can infer that he was a laid back sort of man. It seems as if he is very thoughtful and comes across as one who would love to put their thoughts into words. He comes across to me as a person who has a lot to say but would be a quiet type of person, more thoughtful. I wonder what his childhood was like because I envision him growing up on a farm or around an orchard, reading books and pondering then for long periods of time. He is different from Dickinson in the sense that he is more laid back and relaxed. I feel like Dickenson would be a more precocious person.

9:42 PM  
Blogger JordanL said...

In these picture Walt looks like a don't mess with me kinda guy. He looks a lot more friendly and socail than Emily. He seems a lot more optimistic and in general happy than Emily did. From the captions he seems like a pretty laid back guy and at ease with himself. I also agree with Mackenzie and Jen about his sense of humor. I wonder what he would have to say about our world today.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Chris B said...

i would say that he was a happier person and knew more about life. I was more lively and did much more then dickinson. He had more to realtate to tan she did and might have put more into his poetry.

9:27 AM  
Blogger OfAThousandSuns said...

From the pictures, I can say this much: his beard is the bomb. He looks more intriguing than Dickinson, but looks as though he has been through some hard times and seen bad things happen in his life.

9:42 AM  
Blogger OfAThousandSuns said...

Also, he is smiling, and has a lot of kindness in his, like Santa Claus.

9:45 AM  
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