How Walt Whitman's Poem I Hear America Singing Compares to the Blues Term Paper

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¶ … hear America Singing

Walt Whitman was one of the more celebrated African-American poets of his time with Leaves of Grass being his most important work. In his highly acclaimed poem, "I hear America Singing," the poet had expressed his desire of seeing a more racially neutral America. In many ways, the poem was visionary just like the famous "I have a Dream" speech by Mather Luther King junior.

Whitman's poem however was deeply grounded in African-American folk tradition or what we normally would call "the blues." The blues music was expression of African-American sentiment in its purest form, devoid of all artificiality. "Although many younger African-Americans do not relate closely to the blues, because they have not grown up in the same world that their grandparents experienced- many younger whites (or brown or yellow people) see the blues as an expressive tool that can detail their feelings about life in general, or about the nature of their own lives. Others relate to the party or dance aspects of the blues, and do not spend a lot of time thinking about the message of the music." (Weissman, p.3)

In other words, blues were always a tool for African-Americans to express their anger, their desires, their resentment and their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Although blues took its birth in the environment of deep oppression, its popularity is grounded in the fact that it touched many feelings which hold universal appeal. Whitman's poetry showed a clear folk influence and that can be seen in 'I hear American Singing" where he says in most clear terms:

HEAR America singing, the varied carols I hear;

Those of mechanics -- each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;

The poem was metaphorically describing the vision that Whitman had- the vision of an America where everyone would be happy and enjoying their work. Since oppression was common and widespread, Whitman envisioned a place where people would be embraced without any discrimination and where they will live and work in contentment. The blues had a clear influence on this form of poetry as Whitman himself confessed that he liked to use language of the common man since language was meant to describe ordinary everyday feelings and not some abstract concepts:

Language, be it remembered, is not an abstract construction of the learn'd, or of dictionary makers, but is something arising out of the work, needs, ties, joys, affections, tastes, of long generations of humanity, and has its bases broad and low, close to the ground. Its final decisions are made by the… [end of preview; READ MORE]

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"How Walt Whitman's Poem I Hear America Singing Compares to the Blues."  Essaytown.com.  June 20, 2008.  Accessed January 23, 2020.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/walt-whitman-poem-hear-america-singing/4087729.