The Poetry of Walt Whitman

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 11463

Does poetry rhyme? Not every time! Learn some free verse, written by a male nurse! Discover Walt Whitman and how his poetry reflected his society. You'll write your own free verse about today's world!


Literary Studies

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio: Image - Button Play
Image - Lession Started Image - Button Start
  • If you were a poet, would you prefer to be famous during your lifetime or after your death? Why?
  • What events in your life do you think would influence your poetry?

Walt Whitman Age 36

Walt Whitman is recognized as one of America's most famous nineteenth-century poets, even though he was not famous during his lifetime.

Writing during the middle of the nineteenth century, Whitman lived through the Civil War and even worked as a male nurse during wartime. Although Whitman published and sold several editions of his poetry collection Leaves of Grass, he often struggled to make ends meet and worked in various professions, including newspaper printing, teaching, and nursing.

Whitman would publish other poetry collections, including Drum-Taps, Democratic Vistas, and Passage to India, but none of these other books achieved the fame that Leaves did. Leaves of Grass is a collection of Whitman's work that he continued to revise and add poems to in each subsequently published edition until his death.

Read this Walt Whitman biography to learn more about his life and writing. As you do, take notes on the important events of Whitman's life and the print dates for various versions of his book Leaves of Grass.

Use your notes to create a timeline of Whitman's biography and publishing history.

You can write on a sheet of butcher paper, freezer wrap, or even the back of wrapping paper, so you can make the sheet as long as you want, or you can use an online program, such as Timetoast

Include the following information on your timeline.

  • ⇒ Whitman's birth and death dates
  • ⇒ Whitman's siblings birth dates
  • ⇒ dates and titles of Whitman's different jobs
  • ⇒ dates and locations of places Whitman lived
  • ⇒ publication dates of the various editions of Leaves of Grass

Share your completed timeline with someone and explain the chronology of Whitman's life and literary career.

  • Which events do you think were the most interesting in his life?
  • Which events do you think influenced Whitman's poetry?

Move to the Got It? section to read several of Whitman's poems.

Image - Button Next