Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Walt Whitman

Mr. Walt Whitman was born in 1819 in Long Island. He only received 6 years schooling before tackling the following vocations: printer, carpenter, teacher, clerk, and reporter.

Like with Shelley, I study him to become better at seeing the world around me. Poetry, I think, helps one develop an eye for description. Here’s part of Mr. Whitman’s poem, “After the Sea-Ship,” that I studied tonight:

After the sea-ship, after the whistling winds,
After the white-gray sails taut to their spars and ropes,
Below, a myriad waves hastening, lifting up their necks,
Tending in ceaseless flow toward the track of the ship,
Waves of the ocean bubbling and gurgling, blithely prying,
Waves, undulating waves, liquid, uneven, emulous waves,
Toward that whirling current, laughing and buoyant, with curves,
Where the great vessel sailing and tacking displaced the surface …

I chose this poem because the Phaiakians in my novel are a race of sailors. That being the case, I have a few ocean scenes. I might be smart enough to describe the ocean as undulating, but I failed to ever describe water as “blithely prying” or “laughing and buoyant, with curves.”

The imagery employed by Mr. Whitman brings the ocean to life. I’ve found this detail to be particularly helpful when trying to heighten a scene. Often these instances are when danger abounds. I need suspense, which works best when the book’s pace and description increase. I can’t just say the hero’s ship is sinking. No, I must describe the turbulent, frowning waves reaching to snatch the ship.


  1. Or, perhaps, the great fist of Poseiden rising from the depths to smash the ship down.

  2. I love it, Marty! Can I use something similar to that in my book?

    I'm sure you can relate to this -- the Greek setting and their gods seem to really be all about imagery -- each one represents some element of life. Poseidon is the sea and Apollo the sun, etc. No wonder those Greeks were so poetic!

  3. Hiya! My new writing blog is at blog.sarahlynnlester.com

    And I'm enjoying yours, by the way!


  4. How very cool! My favorite poet is Samuel Coleridge. Love Kubla Khan.
    Imagery is everything!

  5. Thanks, Sarahlynn. I'll see you at your new blog!

  6. Hi PJ - I'll have to get back to you with my thoughts on those two poems.

    Imagery is everything -- I wonder if in authors' efforts today to be more cinematic (which, is all visual), if books in general are now less filled with imagery than in years past. In other words, modern authors feel a need to keep a fast pace, and detailed visuals are the first to go.