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Walt Whitman answered the call for an American Poet by Ralph Waldo Emerson


Walt Whitman answered the call for an American Poet by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Whitman saw Emerson give a talk entitled "Nature and the Powers of the Poet" in 1842 that eventually became the basis for Emerson's essay "Poet" in which he called for an American Poet. American writers/poets continued to write in a way that echoed European poetic form. Whitman was greatly influenced by Emerson and after he published Leaves of Grass, he sent a copy to Emerson. In a letter dated July 21, 1855, Emerson tells Whitman that "I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed" (Emerson, 1855 Letter). I say all of this to make you think more critically about Whitman's poem "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry." It is a very American piece of poetry about America's largest city that is situated just prior to the beginnings of realism.
           Hart Crane was a modernist American poet, writing in the 1920s, until his death in 1932. If you read all of his epoch poem "The Bridge" you can see he greatly desired to create an epoch about America. "The Bridge" represents Hart Crane's synthesis of the American experience. Just as the Brooklyn Bridge curves upward, and was built from both ends simultaneously, Crane sought to bring the ideals of an American people (from the past and the present) towards a meeting at the apex of the mystical bridge he was creating. Crane used geography, history, and fact to construct and span the North American continent, in his creation of what can only be called an American myth. While Crane was enthralled with T. S. Eliot as a poet, and "The Bridge" embodies Crane's direct reply or counterstatement to Eliot's "The Waste Land," in no way does he allow Eliot's poetry to dictate his work in "The Bridge." Rather, he looks toward Walt Whitman, who Emerson believed answered the call for a truly American poet, to set the basis for "The Bridge." In some ways, Whitman becomes symbolic of a regenerated America, for Crane. Crane's bridge makes metaphysical leaps to span the waste land, assuring safe passage through time to the future. He believed he had discovered the essential symbol for the brash, young country that was only 150 years old at the time Crane was writing. Crane's vision was also physical in that the Brooklyn Bridge was a marvel of architectural construction that could be parlayed in a poetic, spiritual manner that he believed would bring unity to America. (You only have read "To Brooklyn Bridge," so no need to read entire poem.)
           After reading these two brief synopses about Whitman and Crane, and what you yourself have written about the two poems, I want to you to write three full pages comparing the poets and their poems. Do some research and have fun with this longer comparison.
2.        Although you are reading the remainder of Huck Finn this week, I believe you will finish in a timely manner. Write three full pages double-spaced, expanding on your two 200-word discussion posts about Huck Finn. Again, do little research in addition to the critical essay you read about race on this text. The sky is the limit here. Bring Twain's beliefs on race into your writing, if you wish, or leave him out entirely. You could look at the idea of Huck's positioning on the class rung as the very lowest of white people, but yet Jim was placed even lower, because of his race. Twain has provided us with many scenarios from which to write.

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