Style means both technique
& genre on one hand, and content / subject matter on
the other—both the how and what that make a writer's style partly unique
to themselves but also
true to their moment in history or their circumstances.
During the American Renaissance or antebellum era, three of the
USA's greatest lyric poets developed
personal styles that can be compared to each other in terms of their appeals to readers
category / author
formal verse or
formal and musical or lyrical:
traditional or fixed verse forms
like the sonnet, ballad, etc.
formal base (e.g. ballad or hymn stanzas)
free verse, modern
(improvised punctuation, line shifts, half-rhymes or off-rhymes)
least formal >
(but other poetic structures persist, esp.
anaphora / parallelism &
figures of speech)
or subject matter
desire-loss, long ago & far away, exotic or oriental
domestic settings (instead of exotic) become universally meaningful; everyday encounters
with death become universal metaphors
everyday, urban American life becomes poetic subject; the American
frontier and expanding nation; some representation of
textbook or formula
Romanticism: escapism to
"anything but here and now" (a reader of Poe would never guess Poe lived
in American cities); use of
Romantic rhetoric, esp. language of extremes
Romanticism + American
Dickinson not part of Transcendentalist movement but shares
its interest in spiritual or mystical dimensions of everyday life. Everyday
household or natural images may be
realistic, but they become
symbols of transcendent or mystical meaning
Whitman the most realistic of
Romantic poets: attention to city life, details of human existence,
inclusion of risque or unseemly subjects;
Romantic love of nature,
or union, romance-narrative quests for union or transcendence.
appeals to readers, scholars
formal verse easy to memorize; mystique of
Wrote app. 1800 lyric poems, each extraordinary or
unique; elusiveness, ambiguity, delicacy, surprise- or shock-value
as aesthetic value.
Makes common subjects worthy of poetic wonder and beauty; courageous
exploration of forbidden subjects; reaches out to reader, forces
identification; enormous influence on later poets by
"freeing verse" and
revolutionizing subject matter of poetry
Poems by each poet studied in American
Poe (Poe Style Sheet)
"The City in the Sea"
Dickinson (Dickinson Style
Came Down the Walk]
[I felt a funeral in my brain]
[Dare you see a soul at the White Heat?]
light exists in spring]
"[I heard a fly buzz, when I died"
Whitman (Whitman Style Sheet)
Sing the Body Electric"
"There was a Child Went Forth"
"When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer"