Walt Whitman’s Turning 199 and the Festivities Have Already Begun


Thursday marks the 199th anniversary of  poet Walt Whitman’s birth.

Born in West Hills, Whitman is known as the father of free verse, standing among the most significant poets in history.

2018 is proving to be strong year for the Walt Whitman Birthplace, with new acquisitions and a full schedule of events. On April 26, the WWBA launched their newest collection, the personal Whitman Library of Marvin Feinstein.

“The collection includes many copies of Leaves of Grass with multiple translations,” WWBA Executive Director Cynthia Shor said. “300 volumes were donated in total increasing our library by 20 percent. We currently have 1,800 volumes, making ours one of the largest private collections of Whitman works in the nation.”

With momentum carrying along, an annual weekend celebration of Whitman’s birthday is in order. On Saturday June 2 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., WWBA will be hosting a Silhouette Craft for all ages that is free and open to the public. This fun and historical “selfie” activity emulates the silhouettes taken in Whitman’s era. Also at 12:30 p.m. WWBA Poet-in-Residence, Vijay Seshadri, Pulitzer Prize winner in Poetry, will offer a Master Class in Poetry Writing. Then at 5:30 p.m. Seshadri will be joined by 2013 WWBA Champion of Literacy, John Barr, in offering a poetry reading followed by a book sale and signing with Q&A. This all day event welcomes poets and literary enthusiasts of all levels. Follow this link for more information on purchasing tickets and workshop fees.

On Sunday June 3 Seshadri will officiate the Annual Student Poetry Contest Award Ceremony. Now in it’s 32nd year, the Student Poetry Contest invites students from grades 3-12 to find their own voice and style. “The contest has grown to include entries worldwide,” Shor said, “with 2,300 applicants, 100 winners . . . we plan to have 350-400 guests.” The event begins at noon and is free and open to the public. 

Looking ahead to 2019, WWBA is planning for the bicentennial of Whitman’s birth. During their three-day Whitman Bicentennial Birthday Celebration, Compagnie de’Colombari Theatre Troupe will present an operatic and theatrical interpretation with music and lighting of Whitman’s words in More or Less I Am. Among a variety of music, there will be live student readings, an open mic and poetry presentations. Also, a newly refurbished exhibition space is in order to enhance the visitor experience. On August 9th the first three day International Whitman Festival will occur. WWBA is currently calling for papers to examine the different aspects of Whitman and his contributions. The submission deadline has been extended to July 1.

With the bicentennial of Whitman’s birth nearing closer, his work continues to stand the test of time. Walking the peaceful Huntington grounds you are taken back to Whitman’s childhood. In the poem, “There Was a Child Went Forth,” Whitman’s words speak volumes to his Long Island environment, which “became part of that child who went forth every day, and who now goes, and will always go forth every day.”

To find out more information on upcoming events and all things Whitman follow this link

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