Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg are two poets that have comparable poetic tendencies despite living almost a century apart from one another. Many critics argue that Ginsberg could perhaps have been inspired by Whitman. Whitman’s “Song of Myself” and Ginsberg’s “Howl” share many obvious and subtle similarities that are examined by a number of different critics. Interestingly, each poet, though separated by almost a century, has similar thoughts and interests despite two very different cultural atmospheres. In particular, “Song of Myself” and “Howl” seem to be in spiritual conversation with one another. When reading “Howl”, I can’t help but to imagine Ginsberg writing where Whitman left off. Each poet seems to have a profound interest in transcendence and nature and the spiritual tendencies in the different poems almost mirror one another. Poet Galway Kinnell has said, “I feel that Ginsberg is the only one to understand Whitman and to bring into the poetry of our time a comparable music”. One of the most prevalent themes in both “Song of Myself” and “Howl” is a reaction to the political and cultural tendencies of each poet’s time. Both Whitman and Ginsberg lived during times of extreme cultural and political change in America and each poet represented their thoughts, views, and opinions of their America in their poetry. Whitman and Ginsberg respond to the changing of the times in a similar fashion in “Song of Myself” and “Howl” through the poets reactions to the culture of their America, the poets thoughts and opinions of political events, as well as each poets reaction to their own homosexuality.
Whitman and Ginsberg share a similar vision and it may be interesting to question how each poet speaks to America not only through the words of their poetry, but through the way each poem is written. Not only are “Song of Myself” and “Howl” similar thematically, each poem contains similar poetic techniques.