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How To Celebrate Walt Whitman’s Birthday

ki and whitmans2 canios

Two Walt Whitman(s) at Canio’s book store. 2016.

Poet Walt Whitman was born on Long Island, New York, on May 31, 1819. Onthewilderside proposes a national holiday for Whitman’s birthday. Below are some videos and ideas about how to honor this wonderful poet, thinker, and experimenter of language.

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

Sunday, June 5th at noon:
Young Poets Award Ceremony with Robert Pinsky

On Saturday, June 4th, there is a Master Class in the afternoon with Robert Pinksy, and a reading, reception, and book signing with Pinsky at 5:30pm.

Video: How a poet and nature lover celebrates Walt Whitman’s Birthday…
(See companion text at readmore)

 

 

 

Celebrate Walt Whitman: Listen To The Waves

Companion text to video “How a poet and nature lover celebrates Walt Whitman’s Birthday”

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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