Literature Walt Whitman’s Beard As the father of free verse, Walt Whitman stands among the United States’ most influential writers. His advice for healthy living included nude sunbathing, cold baths, eating meat, and lots of time in the great outdoors. Perhaps his most important rule for modern life is growing a healthy beard. Whitman is a bridge between transcendentalism and realism. With his classic Leaves of Grass, Whitman established himself as the “poet of democracy” (and an early champion of American beards). As a result, he helped drive American literature forward through significant changes in the 19th century.