Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Walt Whitman's Birthday (Suit)


[
Walt Whitman (1819-1892) ? - photographed by Thomas Eakins c. 1885]

That the above images (from Eakins' studio) of a nude elderly man are authentic images of the "good grey bard", poet Walt Whitman, was first argued by Ed Folsom in the Spring 1994 issue of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review. Since then, there have been some fairly convincing refutations (see William Innes Homer - "Whitman, Eakins and the Naked Truth" in the Summer 1997 edition of the same journal), but, well, look again - we do know he (Walt) was a friend of Eakins (even sat for him for his portrait on one singularly memorable occasion), and that is an extraordinary resemblance - the jury is still out.

Another Whitman "find" - again remarked upon by Ed Folsom in the pages of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review , is the (re-)discovery, a few years back, of a rare (wax cylinder) tape-recording from circa 1889-90, purportedly of Whitman reading (four lines from his late poem, "America"). Again, there are the nay-sayers and the firm believers. Folsom discusses the case here. Allen Koenigsberg has some additional information in Antique Phonograph Monthly.
You can listen to it yourself and make up your own mind - An mp3 (of all 36 seconds!) is available here.

Folsom (alongside Kenneth M Price) is one of the editors/curators of the extraordinarily helpful and laudably comprehensive Walt Whitman Archives ("an electronic research and teaching tool that sets out to make Whitman's vast work, for the first time, easily and conveniently accessible to scholars, students, and general readers"). Price, incidentally, just last month, was able to announce the discovery of nearly 3,000 new Whitman documents (details on that, and a whole lot more besides, are available on the site).

Allen and Walt - well, as everyone knows, Whitman was the absolute touch-stone for Allen
"What thoughts I have of you tonight..." The famous opening lines of "A Supermarket in California". Here's Allen introducing and reading from that poem

and here's his 1976 NAROPA class on Whitman. We hear him reading from Democratic Vistas and from the 1876 Preface to Leaves of Grass. (he also reads from Leaves of Grass here in this 1981 class, and on this occasion)

oh and Allen was always proud of "The Gay Succession", explained in full detail here.

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