Literature Reading: Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”

Literature Reading: Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”

By Emily M. Smith

“I celebrate myself and sing myself.” In honor of the bicentennial of Whitman’s birth, American’s Lit Department took these words to heart and held a group reading of “Song of Myself” on Friday, March 29th. Literature and creative writing professors, graduate students, and undergraduate students gathered to present and listen to a marathon reading of the 1892 version of Whitman’s fifty-two sectioned poem.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was a celebrated American poet and essayist. Hailed the Father of Free Verse, he is considered one of the most impactful poets of the 19th century. The poem “Song of Myself” is part of his collection Leaves of Grass, originally self-published in 1855. It is considered the quintessence of Whitman’s historically and politically charged poetic voice. You can read more about Walt Whitman and “Song of Myself” here

After much excitement, and many Leaves of Grass themed cookies, the event kicked off with the Lit. Department’s own Marianne Noble providing an introduction on Walt Whitman and the evolution of his poetic voice. Erik Dussere, the fearless leader and orchestrator of the event, followed suit by welcoming everyone. Then commenced the reading of the actual poem, which included over forty-five different readers. As night descended on the Battelle Atrium, the room was alive with verse, Whitman’s words breathing magnetic energy into the room. After the final reading, Erik Dussere took to the stage once again to conclude the marathon with the words, “Happy Birthday Walt.”

The night’s readers included Erik Dussere, Karla Daly, Kenneth Fleming, Tony Liu, Olivia McAdams, Paul Fileri, Leah Taylor, Chelsea Horne, Julia Whitman, Justine Zapin, Stephanie Hartman, Kelly Joyner, Evan Lenneville-Hutchinson, Linda Voris, Stephanie Grant, David Pike, Alejandro Hirsh Saed, Grace Donovan, Cassie Osvatics, David Keplinger, Noa Vitenson, Cordilia James, Jeff Middents, Sarah Trembath, Bailey Blumenstock, Sarah Marsh, Andrew Ross, Torin Wright, Bernadette Itzkow, Jordan Bissell, Lucie Waller, Michael Manson, Anna Brailow, Dara Feldman, Jayme Schlenker, Michael Connor, Tyler Lin, Jacob Robbins, Marianne Noble, Despina Kakoudaki, Pablo Molina, Emily Smith, Daniel Ginsburg, Rick Kimbers, Cara Racin, and Ben Truax.

For more information on the Literature Department’s upcoming events and news, please visit their website.

Photos: Emily M. Smith

Emily M. Smith is a guest contributor at Café MFA and a first-year candidate in American University’s Creative Writing MFA program.

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