At 7 p.m. tonight a group of literary scenesters will gather at Art in the Age to read the poetry of Walt Whitman, marking his 194th birthday. North Third Street is an apt spot for such a gathering–to which you’re all invited–because it’s just across the bridge from Camden, the city where Whitman lived before his death and where he wrote his final version of Leaves of Grass, his masterwork much inflected by New Jersey.
Consider the following Whitman verse, and see if it doesn’t summon the familiar:
WILD, wild the storm, and the sea high running;
Steady the roar of the gale, with incessant under-tone muttering;
Shouts of demoniac laughter fitfully piercing and pealing;
Waves, air, midnight, their savagest trinity lashing;
Out in the shadows there, milk-white combs careering;
On beachy slush and sand, spurts of snow fierce slanting—
Where, through the murk, the easterly death-wind breasting,
Through cutting swirl and spray, watchful and firm advancing
(That in the distance! is that a wreck? is the red signal flaring?),
Slush and sand of the beach, tireless till daylight wending,
Steadily, slowly, through hoarse roar never remitting,
Along the midnight edge, by those milk-white combs careering,
A group of dim, weird forms, struggling, the night confronting,
That savage trinity warily watching.
Though friends and family thought Whitman’s choice of Camden somewhat bizarre (plus ça change…), he was increasingly fond of it, and of the little house where he died. Who would have thought? The insistent traveler, at home at last–in Camden.
WHAT: Literary Mixtape: WALT WHITMAN
WHEN: Wed., May 29, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction, 116 North Third Street