I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
These are the first three lines from “Song of Myself,” Walt Whitman’s masterpiece. Before Whitman, we didn’t really have American poetry; we only had European poetry in America. His poetry not only challenged European forms and themes, but it defined the American idea, something much broader than just America the nation.
Today is his birthday, so here’s your homework: Obtain and read a copy of Leaves of Grass, and watch Dead Poets’ Society.