Walt Whitman’s Birthday: Celebrate poetry, nature, and silence on May 31st

Poet Walt Whitman was born on Long Island, New York, on May 31, 1819. Below are some videos and ideas about how everyone can celebrate this wonderful poet, thinker, and experimenter of language on his birthday.

For those of us on Long Island, please do not forget the annual events at The Walt Whitman Birthplace in Huntington Station…

Sunday, May 31st at 12pm will be an awards ceremony for the Young Poets Contest. It is free and open to the public (donation requested). It is a fun way to hear some words from the Poet-in-Residence, take a tour of the house, and see happy, young poets read and receive awards.

The weekend includes other events at the birthplace. On Saturday, May 30th, after the Master Class, Poet-in-Residence Yusef Komunyakaa will present an evening reading. $10 for WWBA members and $15 for nonmembers.

 

How a poet and nature lover celebrates Walt Whitman’s Birthday…

 

Celebrate Walt Whitman: Listen To The Waves

Walt Whitman, was born close by to me in West Hills, (Huntington Station), Long Island, New York. For me, Whitman has become a touchstone for something more than just beautiful poetry. I first discovered Walt Whitman for myself when he was quoted in a sermon at an interfaith church in Virginia. Then, a bookstore colleague of mine read with me from Leaves of Grass, and I was awakened to this powerful voice of self, universe, and nature, combined. Since then, I have come to realize Whitman’s amazing gifts as poet, as political figure, as reshaper of language, as prophet, as loving brother, and as complicated and beautiful a person who ever lived.

Whitman’s sense of self and his poetry are effused with a love and connection to nature. In the book, From Noon to Starry Night, by Philip Callow, I relished images of Whitman sitting on a hillside near his family home in West Hills and listening to the sounds of the waves. Whitman credited this constant backdrop of Long Island’s pulsing waters for the subtle rhythm in the new poetic language he invented. And, as a good transcendentalist, he had a genuine passion for the sea, the sun, and the earth over material goods.

As I considered what Walt Whitman has meant to me, and what I know he could mean to many other artists, I thought of a new way to immortalize him…a kind of transcendentalist’s holiday.

On Walt Whitman’s birthday – each May 31st – every person and business (especially those on Long Island) should observe 15 minutes of silence.

We could stop mowing our lawns, stop driving our cars, click off our cellphones, turn off all buzzes and drones of machinery, and just listen. Listen to the silence that enfolds us again in the embrace of nature. Listen to the silence that inspires us to art and poetry. Listen to the heartbeat of the waves which, in Walt’s time, you could hear from every point on the island.

“Listen To The Waves” essay by Kimberly Wilder. Please feel free to repost with credit given. Or, write your own proposal for a Walt Whitman birthday celebration.

Bonus  Video:
Scenes from the Young Poets Awards of Years Past

 

 

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