Sunday, May 27, 2012

Long Island Poem for Sunday, Walt Whitman's birthday, May 27th 2012

Manuscript of Paumanok
Photo from The Walt Whitman Archive
May 31st marks the 193rd anniversary of Walt Whitman's birthday, we are just a few years shy of his bicentennial. Whitman was born in West Hills on Long Island; the location is now the Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site and Interpretive Center - an active place, well worth a visit, offering tours and poetry meetings.

Though Whitman's reach was universal - in 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass (page 29) the poet introduced himself as - "Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a kosmos, disorderly, fleshly, and sensual, no sentimentalist, no stander above men or women or apart from them, no more modest than immodest"; he referred to Long Island in a number of poems.

Today let us present a later poem, from 1888, "Paumanok", Paumanok was a native name of Long Island. Whitman still saw it as "Isle of sweet brooks of drinking-water—healthy air and soil!"

Walt Whitman

Sea-beauty! stretch'd and basking!
One side thy inland ocean laving, broad, with copious commerce,
         steamers, sails,
And one the Atlantic's wind caressing, fierce or gentle—mighty
         hulls dark-gliding in the distance.
Isle of sweet brooks of drinking-water—healthy air and soil!
Isle of the salty shore and breeze and brine!

"Paumanok" by Walt Whitman, first published in the New York Herald on February 29, 1888.
Reprinted after The Walt Whitman Archive. In public domain.

Previous Long Island Poem for Sunday - Long Island Poem for Memorial Day Sunday, May 20th, 2012

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