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  • NYS Writers Institute

Event: Walt Whitman Birthday Celebration

A community reading of Whitman's "Song of Myself" in Albany's Washington Park on Wednesday, May 31

Poets and community folk will gather at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 31, at the Robert Burns statue in Albany's Washington Park to celebrate the birthday of Walt Whitman with a reading of his poem “Song of Myself.”

First edition

Walt Whitman Birthday Celebration

6 p.m. Wednesday, May 31

Robert Burns Statue

Washington Park, Albany

Free and open to the public.

Volunteers are needed to read sections of Whitman’s poem. You can sign up to read at the event.

Bring a chair or blanket to sit on and enjoy the event.

Whitman, a poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist, was born May 31,1819 in West Hills, a hamlet of Huntington on Long Island.

The event, an Albany tradition since 2005, is organized by Dan Wilcox and sponsored by the Poetry Motel Foundation and the Hudson Valley Writers Guild.

We spoke to Dan before last year's Whitman celebration. "I'm very happy with [the event]. Very happy with the success of it," he said. "A lot of people show up people who may have read Whitman in school and remembered how accessible he is. I get a cross-section of community people who don't go to poetry events."

"I've always been a fan of Whitman," he continued. "The amazing thing about that poem, is it's sort of like the Bible. Every time I'm there [at the Washington Park reading] I hear something. It clicks, it registers, almost like hearing it for the first time. It's a document you can go in and out of when you're sitting there. You can just get into it."

The Robert Burns statue is located in Albany’s Washington Park, along the park road that parallels Willett Street and the intersection of Hudson Avenue.

Read "Song of Myself"

You can read the 1892 version of "Song of Myself" -- that's the version that'll be read at the Washington Park event -- at Called the "deathbed version," the 1892 edition was Whitman's final edition of the volume he first published in 1855. At the end of 1891, he wrote to a friend:

"L. of G. at last complete — after 33 y'rs of hackling at it, all times & moods of my life, fair weather & foul, all parts of the land, and peace & war, young & old."


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