Colonial Literature

Civil War & Realism


European Romanticim


Harlem Renaissance

American Romanticism

19th century Naturalism

Beat Generation/Whitman

New England Renaissance

American Realism & Regionalism



Anxiety of Influence




Whitman's Legacy


Whitman influecec many poets.


Galway Kinnel

HOW I came to practice poetry is little bit of a mystery to me," says the Pulitzer Prize-winning Galway Kinnell. "I came to love poetry when I discovered, in a little anthology in my parents' bookshelf, the poems of Edgar Allan Poe in particular. The accent of my hometown [Providence, Rhode Island] is rather unpoetical. It's a very charming and loveable accent, but not very musical. To discover that this language could sing like that -- 'It was many and many a year ago in a kingdom by the sea. . .' -- thrilled me.

"I had a particularly lonely childhood, not in the sense of not having people around, but failing to make real connections and being shy to the point of mutinous, so the solitaries among the poets, like Dickinson and Poe, appealed to me a lot. . . . One thing that leads a person to poetry is an inner life of some activity and maybe even turbulence, the weight of meaning and feeling that has to get out.

"There's not a specific something I'm aiming for, but there is something that's almost unspeakable and poems are efforts to speak it bit by bit, like a burden than has to be laid down piece by piece, that can't be just thrown off."


Talking with my beloved in New York

I stood at the outdoor public telephone

in Mexican sunlight, in my purple shirt.

Someone had called it a man/woman

shirt. The phrase irked me. But then

I remembered that Rainer Maria

Rilke, who until he was seven wore

dresses and had long yellow hair,

wrote that the girl he almost was

"made her bed in his ear" and "slept him the world."

I thought, OK this shirt will clothe the other in me.

As we fell into long-distance love talk

a squeaky chittering started up all around,

and every few seconds came a sudden loud

buzzing. I half expected to find

the insulation on the telephone line

laid open under the pressure of our talk

leaking low-frequency noises.

But a few yards away a dozen hummingbirds,

gorgets going drab or blazing

according as the sun struck them,

stood on their tail rudders in a circle

around my head, transfixed

by the flower-likeness of the shirt.

And perhaps also by a flush rising into my face,

for a word -- one with a thick sound,

as if a porous vowel had sat soaking up

saliva while waiting to get spoken,

possibly the name of some flower

that hummingbirds love, perhaps

"honeysuckle" or "hollyhock"

or "phlox" -- just then shocked me

with its suddenness, and this time

apparently did burst the insulation,

letting the word sound in the open

where all could hear, for these tiny, irascible,

nectar-addicted puritans jumped back

all at once, as if the air gasped.


--from "Imperfect Thirst" by Galway Kinnell




Check out Ginsberg's poem

Walt in a supermarket in Calafornia...