Writing a Transcendental Poem

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You will write your own transcendental poem modeled after Walt Whitman’s “There Was a Child Went Forth.” To make writing this poem easier on you, it will be divided up into sections, much like Whitman’s, and have a required number of lines in each section or stanza.

Look back on the poem and notice how the poem discusses how the child is made up of the following:

  • objects
  • locations and the people the child encounters at those locations
  • the family and home
  • the community

This is how you will structure your poem as well. Please don’t feel compelled to rhyme—nothing ruins a great poem more than a forced rhyme! Your poem should begin exactly like Whitman’s, replacing the pronouns for the appropriate gender, of course.

Stanza 1: Lines 1–4

You must begin with the following phrases

There was a child went forth every day;

And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;

And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.

Stanza 2: Lines 5–10

Next, there should be a stanza with at least five lines about the objects in your life that have helped shape you into the delightful human being you are. These objects could include items such as a special picture that has been in your hallway your whole life, a necklace, or a family pet.

Stanza 3: Lines 11–15

The next stanza is about the locations you are familiar with in your life and the people you have encountered in those locations. Again, five lines are required in this stanza. These locations could include places such as the neighborhood park, a church, a synagogue, a mosque, or a school. Any location is fine—use your imagination.

Stanza 4: Lines 16–20

The next stanza is about your family and home. Again, five lines are required in this stanza. These lines could be about your individual family members, a specific member of your family who has been extraordinarily important to you, the home you have grown up in, or the environment that has shaped you that involves your home or family.

Stanza 5: Lines 21–25

The next stanza is about your community. Think about the community you are living in either now, or in the early years of your life, or both. What is it like? Sometimes, for better or worse, our community will shape us. Describe the community around you. You must write at least five lines.

Stanza 6: Lines 26–28

You will then conclude your poem with Whitman’s last lines:

These became part of that child who went forth every day, and who now

goes, and will always go forth every day.

Don’t forget at least 5 lines per stanza

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