Today is the birthday of the great American poet Walt Whitman. Controversial from the moment he self-published Leaves of Grass, Whitman has been maligned as immoral, perverse, sacrilegious and decadent. But he is also praised as the poet of democracy, the father of free verse, and possibly the first Beat poet.
I like to think of him as one of the original restless writers—in addition to writing, he made a living as a typesetter, a clerk, a teacher, a journalist and a nurse. “Do I contradict myself?” he once said. “Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.
From O Me! O life!