Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I Celebrate Myself...and Whitman

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

One of the most problematic aspects of New York is the tyranny of choice: there is just too damn much to do, and you can’t expect to do it all.  There’s even too much to do for your particular nerd group: music nerd, sports nerd, technology nerd, art nerd, etc. It’s not a bad problem to have, to be sure, but it’s not a fun problem when you’re - shall we say - financially challenged.

But if you’re a literature nerd, sometimes you’ll luck out on free events that are wonderful in content and concept and whose excellence is only augmented by the New York setting.

And by a Brooklyn setting, in particular, where poetic clout rests largely in Walt Whitman.  In early May, I attended a concert/small festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) titled “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” after Whitman’s famous poem describing the pre-bridge ferry crossing from Manhattan to Brooklyn. (My friend Monica and I attended for one night, where we saw the bands Ava Luna, the Antlers, Buke and Gass, and St. Vincent.  Good times, indeed.) 

On Sunday, June 3, in between a million events and errands on my agenda, I found time to walk past the old home of the Brooklyn Eagle (which Whitman edited), down to Brooklyn Bridge Park.  On Pier 1, an NYU professor was hosting the annual marathon reading of Song of Myself.  As clouds and wind moved in, building gray waves on the East River beneath the skyline of the Financial District and the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, poets and volunteers stood to recite their favorite sections from the 1855 version.  Even when the rain fell in a quick and thorough summer shower, drenching Walt Whitman look-a-likes  through their big white beards, the reading lost no momentum.  The small but hearty audience followed along as raindrops splattered their diverse copies of the poem.

Although I could only stay for a few minutes, the literature nerd in me was pleased.

Click to hear the current Poet-in-Residence of the Walt Whitman Birthplace - Martin Espada - read Part II of Song of Myself (and also glimpse what seems like an anachronistic car drive through the back of the shot).

My souvenir


  1. Wonderful and beautiful. It is truly amazing how much there is to do and how much history there is in the little town. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Those are some awesome pictures. Did the iphone do that? I must say that I'm jealous that you live in a city in which a marathon reading of Song of Myself takes place with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background. So cool!

    1. Even my rickety old iPhone can pull out some tricks on occasion - thanks to filter apps, of course.