The work of the poet has been known at times to be at odds with the norms and expectations of his society. Allan Ginsberg faced multilple trials for the indecency of his poetry and Amiri Baraka lost the position of Poet Laureate of New Jersey because of the apparent hatefulness in one of his poems. Nineteenth-century poet Walt Whitman also occasionally earned the disapproval of his peers and his readers on account of his the sensual passages in some of his poems. However, like most poets who earn more attention from scandal than from their actual art during their lifetimes, Whitman wrote more than his scandalous reputation revealed. He wanted to be the greatest American poet and to be famous for centuries beyond his lifetime and thus wrote poetry not only for his contemporary audience, but for generations of readers to come.
One poem in particular in his collection Leaves of Grass is a prime example of Whitman's insightfulness into the permanence of his literature in America. In "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," Whitman addressed not only his contemporary fellow passengers on the ferry, but all the passengers down through the generations who would also take the ferry from Manhattan to Brooklyn. He saw that, even though a hundred years may pass, people on the ferry would have joys and sorrows and hopes and dreams like his fellow passengers in the nineteenth century, and the river connected them all. Whitman's foresight in his poetry extended far beyond the Brooklyn ferry to include all of America, which he saw in the same way as composed of many different types of people from completely different walks of life combined to form one nation. Therefore, despite the occasional scandal he caused with the sensual nature of some of his poems, Walt Whitman spoke to Americans of all backgrounds with an intimacy of expression that few poets have matched.