Sunday, May 31, 2009

happy birthday walt whitman - 190 years old today!

walt whitman was born may 31, 1819 - 190 years ago today! he died at the age of 72, in 1892. today, he celebrates himself in heaven, while we celebrate his 190th birthday here on earth. whitman is easily my favorite poet (handily, but nevertheless narrowly, beating out allen ginsberg for that honor). a well worn copy of "leaves of grass" is probably one of the oldest books in my library (amazingly, it beats out the equally dog-eared pocket poets editon of "howl" by a couple of years).

whitman was born on long island, grew up in brooklyn (his family moved there when he was 4 years old), and died in camden, new jersey. a true local boy in every sense of the word. he had a series of occupations during his life. aside from writing poetry, he was also a working journalist (having covered the civil war for the "brooklyn eagle") and essayist.

he self-published "leaves of grass" in 1855 - and revised the poems throughout his lifetime. the copy most read today is the so-called "deathbed" edition. at the time, the book was considered obscene by contemporary society. the above photo of the young whitman was the frontispiece of the first edition. the photo on my blog's sidebar is of the (very) mature walt whitman (also an iconic image).

today, whitman is often considered the father of "free verse" - and none other than allen ginsberg himself followed in the long line of poets who claimed to fall under his influence.

celebrate walt whitman today!

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