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Learn Your Poets: Part 2

The month of April isn’t just about writing poems and taking part in Napowrimo. It is also about appreciating poetry from others and poets. I wanted to do a huge series on each poet that I knew of, including some of my favorites, but decided to break it down into smaller digestible portions.

Walt Whitman – Born in West Hills, New York on May 21st, 1819 he is an American poet, essayist, and journalist. He became known as the father of free verse and became part of a literary transition from transcendentalism (literary individualism in essays, journalism, and poetry) and realism (portrayal of life ‘as is’ and tends to be less fanciful than transcendentalism), this is because he was a humanist. His work often depicted both styles.

He is known for his works O Captain My Captain (inspired by Abraham Lincoln), Leaves of Grass, and many more, but often the name of Whitman evokes memory his work, but he was more than just a writer. He was a man of his times. During the American Civil War, he worked in hospitals helping with the injured. Knowing that he did this in his life you can look at his work differently. Subjects of life, death, loss, and healing are throughout the subject matter of his work.

His written pieces have been considered to be at the forefront of American literature. There are many quotes that share this thought: you need Whitman to understand America. His work is a raw and emotional look on the ups and downs of American life through his unique perspective. This carried throughout his life’s works.

Near the end of his life he dealt with many health issues, including a stroke, but it was during this period he continued to be productive, publishing several editions of Leaves of Grass. He passed March 26th, 1892 in Camden, New Jersey.

Rumors (I will call them this because I personally do not know a truth) about his more private life still circulate, for example that he was a homosexual or bisexual man. This was fueled by the nature of his work Leaves of Grass. Whatever his lifestyle, his sexual relationships, without a doubt he still is a major influence of writers to this day.

George Gordon Byron (Lord Bryon) – Born January 22, 1788 in London, England. His romanticism poetry is thought of as entrancing all of Europe. Also a satirist with an exceptional personal, I am sure these other two factors came into play with any entrancing of Europe. He’s best known for his many works, many consider his best poem to be one entitled Don Juan.

Many, including myself, cannot full enjoy the work Don Juan without also reading his work Childe Harold. These two works are considered two sides of the same coin because of the diversity they cover. You simply cannot have one without the other in life according to fans and scholars. With one covering the imperfections and romantic sorrow life can have. The other piece depicts the irony that covers the ‘hypocritical facade’ that is reality itself. These works can also be considered a reflection of a man with many sides, many points of view of the world, and that equates to a depth of personality and being.

I personally do not know much about Lord Bryon so this entry, like many in this series, is shorter. If you would like to do more don’t just sit on the work I’m doing. Do more research, educate yourself.

Bryon passed April 19, 1824 in Missolonghi, Greece.

Shel Silverstein – Born September, 25th 1930. He’s an American writer best known for his work as a cartoonist, song writer, and children’s books author. Best known of these works is The Giving Tree. Before the fame his career brought him, he started publishing in student newspapers.

I do not have to write much about Silverstein, so much is known of him as he’s a poet and creator during modern times. He worked on many televisions shows and worked in theater. His work earned him Grammy awards. It is the release of his children’s books that made his name a staple of many children’s lives.

On a personal note, we (we as in my husband and I),personally, sought out his work as he was a childhood favorite of my husband. We wanted to share this love with our own child continuing the cycle of a beloved author and a favored book entitled Where the Sidewalk Ends, a work Silverstein published in 1974.

Silverstein passed in 1999 on May 10th in Key West, Florida.

H.P. Lovecraft– Born August 20, 1890 in Providence, Rhode Island he is known for his weird fiction and horror genre poetry and stories. He is considered the godfather of ‘weird fiction’ with his famously known creation of the Cthulhu Mythos. Many of his unpublished works, that have survived at least, reflected his racist and xenophobic nature that came later on in life. This was something I wasn’t aware of until very recently.

During his life he suffered financial failures and much struggle. He self-isolated for a long period of his life, but when this period ended and he grew into a more outgoing person, attending conventions and public events, it ultimately helped him create some of his more prolific works.

The financial struggles of his life continued throughout and by the time he passed he was living on the fumes of his inheritance. Consider to be very frugal, it is noted that he would go a day or days without eating to have money for mailing letters.

Lovecraft was able to have some income through selling his own work and being paid for literary jobs for other writers, ghostwriting. His own published work has been made into the cult horror films Re-animator and Necronomicon, just to name a couple.

The success he gained after his death is a sad example that many writers face and some even fear. He is a key example of the ‘starving artist’ phrase. His life was a consistent cycle of hardships. Even though he was born into wealth that wealth dried up after the death of his grandfather.

He passed March 15, 1937 in Providence, Rhode Island.

Following this ‘Learn Your Poets’ series, you’ll read about poets from ancient times to now. From Sappho to Atwood. This series will be of the poets I have read in my time, I am aware of, and because of this I may miss some so please don’t have hurt feelings. They were not left off on purpose only if I didn’t know of them.


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