Walt Whitman's 190th Birthday Celebration

Poetry Atlanta is hosting a marathon reading of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself this Saturday night, and I’m going to be one of the readers, thanks to poet Rupert Fike, who organized us. The reading will take place at composition gallery, which I’ve never visited. I’m looking forward to a double dose of art – poetry and photography. Collin Kelley and Karen Head will be reading, and many other well-known Atlanta poets, a real treat for me, and an honor too, since I’m a poetry scrub.

Of course I take my assignment seriously, and have been reading Song of Myself aloud, trying to let the whole of it soak into my skin. There are 52 sections. I will be reading sections 35 and 36, a kind of story within a story, as the speaker relates a naval battle in the voice of his great grandfather.

What strikes me about Walt Whitman is how enlightened his words are, and how ahead of his times he was, or maybe I shoud say out of time. He had a view that physicists are only now beginning to understand, of the interrelatedness of the universe. Song of Myself, in the very singing of it, is a song to all creation. It’s an attempt to sing the world, and it comes pretty darn close.

Whitman’s language is at once familiar and curious to me. I’ve made a wordle of the words that struck my fancy last night.


9 thoughts on “Walt Whitman's 190th Birthday Celebration

  1. Deb says:

    You’re no scrub or shrub. You’ll be wonderful. Enjoy the evening and I’ll hope for a podcast from the organizers.

    (Those are fabulous words, too.)


  2. odessa says:

    Oh, that sounds like a great gathering of artists! Good luck with the reading, I’m sure you’ll do great. walt whitman never fails to amaze me. love the word ‘pond-snipe’ 🙂


  3. Michelle Johnson says:

    I think you’ll be a great reader of Walt Whitman’s poetry with your beautiful reading voice. Hope you and the others have a great time. Love the wordle you made from Walt’s poem. Some great words. And, that video was cool. Have a nice night/ weekend.


  4. Jo says:

    What fun. I wish I could be there, I love Song of Myself. And it will be so powerful done in so many different voices……that’s his point really isn’t it? Love the wordle too.


  5. Jo says:

    I hope you’re gargling with honey and lemon and limbering up for tonight!!! Good luck to you all…….with your lovely voice, it’ll sound perfect. Hey are you youtubing this? Can’t someone film you for us? I’d love to see it……go on, pretty please.


  6. Jo says:

    Formless stacks of bodies and bodies by themselves, dabs of flesh
    upon the masts and spars,
    Cut of cordage, dangle of rigging, slight shock of the soothe of
    Black and impassive guns, litter of powder-parcels, strong scent,
    A few large stars overhead, silent and mournful shining,
    Delicate sniffs of sea-breeze, smells of sedgy grass and fields by
    the shore,

    WOW! Amazing, amazing stuff.


    • christine says:

      When you take this line out and look at it all by itself, it really makes you see the carnage. I wonder what sort of cosmic message these sections are sending me, since I try to practice non-violence….


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