Tag Archives: Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman Was the Original Kim Kardashian

1 Jun

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Walt Whitman himself!

If you visit the Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site and Interpretive Center, you’ll notice that there are a LOT of photographs of the Good Gray Poet. I don’t mean three or four distinguished portraits artfully framed and hung. I mean an entire wall is covered with various portraits of the great American poet.

The tour guides at the museum will tell you that Whitman understood the power of portraiture as a branding tool and harnessed it for all it was worth when it came to marketing his literary output. In fact, he believed his self image was even greater than his name. When he published his poetry collection Leaves of Grass in 1855 he included Samuel Hollyer’s engraving of him in work clothes and a hat [pictured above] — and didn’t even bother including his own name on his book!

With all those selfies, you might say Walt Whitman was the original Kim Kardashian!

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It’s Walt Whitman’s 196th Birthday! …Or a Post that Includes References to President Lincoln and Bon Jovi

31 May

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Here I am in 2013 standing outside Walt Whitman’s Birthplace State Historic Site and Interpretive Center in Long Island.

Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, in Huntington, Long Island. He’s best known for Leaves of Grass. American schoolchildren are probably most familiar with the poem “O Captain! My Captain!” from the poetry collection. Written in 1865 and not included in Leaves of Grass until the fourth edition, the poem is about the death of President Abraham Lincoln.

There’s so much more to Whitman than that, though.

Walt Whitman is a complex and endlessly fascinating figure of the American poetry scene. He is regarded as the father of free verse poetry. He was also a reporter. He wrote a temperance novel: Franklin Evans (1842). He didn’t believe that all the works attributed to Shakespeare were actually Shakespeare’s. (Hm… what would Miguel Algarin say?) He at first called for the abolition of slavery … and then later thought the movement was a threat to democracy. He’s been inducted into the Legacy Walk, which celebrates LGBT history and people. He passed away in Camden, and the Garden State claimed him in the New Jersey Hall of Fame; that same year (2009), fellow literary luminaries William Carlos Williams and F. Scott Fitzgerald were inducted in the category of “general” while Whitman was inducted in the category of “historical.” (Jon Bon Jovi was one of the inductees honored in the category “arts and entertainment.) Andrew Carnegie said Whitman was “the great poet of America so far.”

“So far.”

Has any other “great poet of America” come along who has taken Whtiman’s place? It’s difficult to say, but this week we’ll be honoring the Good Gray Poet and talking about the poets that have been inspired by him.

Yep! You guessed it. The Beats.