Barbaric means uncivilized and crude, and a yawp is a harsh, animalistic cry. These two words perfectly describe Whitman’s poem, especially considering the time period in which he wrote it. Today, this poem would be considered “free-verse,” but back then poems had a strict structure with rhythm and rhyme schemes. “Song of Myself” is also not organized in a way poems would normally be organized. Whitman starts on one idea and jumps to another and another.
This was a completely new style, and in society, new is often considered uncivilized. Different was bad, and different made you less of a human because you didn’t fit in among them. The entire poem was a challenge to the literary world. The ideas in the poem were not generally accepted and spoken about freely during this time, such as sexual desires. Or, the ideas were just different, such as comparing life to a blade of grass. And here was Whitman, writing about all these strange new concepts in this strange new way.
I think all the short stories and poems we have read in class should be considered “barbaric yawps,” because they all enveloped new ideas and different perceptions on the way things were viewed. They all helped define and create what is truly American literature.