List Poems are comprised of a list of persons, places, things, or abstract ideas that share a common denominator. Walt Whitman’s “I hear America singing!” is a list poem. This poem was published in 1860 on the eve of the Civil War and honors mechanics, carpenters, boatmen, ploughboys who, for Whitman, embodied democracy. How might this poem be changed to reflect the mood of the nation after the Civil War? How might it reflect the south or the north? Would he hear America crying? Sighing? Mourning? Singing a different tune? What might the list of person, places, things, or ideas be?
Substitute the words singing and songs for words that depict a different emotion. Or keep the singing and substitute the people, places, and things for Civil War themes.
Drawn from: Read, Write Think
Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Leaves of Grass. 1900.
I Hear America Singing
|I HEAR America singing, the varied carols I hear;|
|Those of mechanics—each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;|
|The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,|
|The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;|
|The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat—the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck;|
|The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench—the hatter singing as he stands;|
|The wood-cutter’s song—the ploughboy’s, on his way in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;|
|The delicious singing of the mother—or of the young wife at work—or of the girl sewing or washing—Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;|
|The day what belongs to the day—At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,|
|Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.|