American literary scholar and critic R. W. B. Lewis writes about the genius of Walt Whitman in Major Writers of America:

He was the poet of the self’s motion downwards into the abysses of darkness and guilt and pain and isolation, upwards to the creative act in which darkness was transmuted into beauty. When the self became lost to the world, Whitman was lost for poetry. But before that happened, Whitman had, in his own example, made poetry possible in America.

The American poet and critic Ezra Pound once acknowledged Whitman’s prominence:

He is America. His crudity is an exceeding great stench, but it is America. He is the hollow place in the rock that echoes with his time. He does “chant the crucial stage” and he is the “voice triumphant.” He is disgusting. He is an exceedingly nauseating pill, but he accomplishes his mission. … He is content to be what he is, and he is his time and his people.

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