I Sing the Body Electric: Walt Whitman and the Body

Poetry and the Body

Found in the opening pages of Whitman’s proof copy of the first edition of Leaves of Grass, the phrase “The Word is Become Flesh”  exemplifies the relationship between the human body and Whitman's poetry. This portion of the exhibition contains manuscript fragments where Whitman wrote of a desire to craft poetry that "minutely described the whole particulars and ensemble of a first-rate healthy Human Body." His writing celebrates physical movement and boldly names body parts. Lists feature prominently in Whitman's drafts, and his obsession with the human body and its words is shown in those lists of the parts of the body, seen here, that he created while drafting out his ideas.