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Walt Whitman: Song of Myself

An Hour-long Special about America's Most Radical Poet

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Thursday, Nov. 24 at 9AM on AM 820 and 3PM on 93.9FM
Saturday, Nov. 26 at 7AM on 93.9 FM and 4PM on AM 820
Sunday, Nov. 27 at 4PM on 93.9 FM and 1PM on AM 820

Poetry | Music | Events & Exhibitions | Carl Hancock Rux | Credits | Links

One hundred fifty years ago, Walt Whitman published the first edition of Leaves of Grass, a collection of twelve poems that shattered existing notions of poetry and broke all existing conventions in terms of subject matter, language, and style. During Victorian times, Whitman broke taboos: he wrote about slaves, prisoners, prostitutes, sexuality, his love for men, and his vision for a utopian America.

"Walt Whitman: Song of Myself” explores how a 36-year old freelance journalist and part-time house-builder living in Brooklyn created his outrageous, groundbreaking work that irrevocably altered the development of poetry—and literature—that followed. One of the nation’s first media hounds, he styled his image and his persona throughout his lifetime in search of fame and the broadest possible audience. He even hoped to heal a divided nation with this poetry, a lofty goal he would not reach. Despite never reaching a mass public during Whitman’s lifetime, his work’s tremendous impact is being felt a century and a half later.

Program guests include:

John Adams   Composer John Adams, who has set Whitman's elegiac poem "The Wound-Dresser" to music and finds power in Whitman's "great simplicity and directness and sincerity."
 
Michael Cunningham   Novelist Michael Cunningham, who recently included Whitman in his novel Specimen Days.
 
Martin Espada   Puerto Rican poet Martín Espada, hailed by some as a contemporary Walt Whitman, who says that Whitman's poetry "has found its way into the air we breathe."
 
Bill T. Jones   Choreographer Bill T. Jones, who appreciates Whitman's open embrace of the body as well as the mind and says he feels "in some ways a descendent of Walt Whitman."
 
Walt Whitman   Whitman scholar Karen Karbiener, who edited the Barnes & Noble edition of Leaves of Grass and recently co-curated the South Street Seaport's exhibition, "Walt Whitman and the Promise of Democracy, 1855-2005" (on display until December 31st).
 
Phillip Lopate   Writer Phillip Lopate, who explains how the poet gave permission for him and others to "go for broke."
 


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All poetry readings from "Leaves of Grass"

1.
"These are the thoughts of men"
Excerpt from "Song of Myself"
Read by Michael Stuhlberg
2.
"This hour I tell things in confidence"
Excerpt from "Song of Myself"
Read by Mary Myers
3.
"Closer yet I approach you"
Excerpt from "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"
Read by Jeffrey Wright
4.
"The blab of the pave"
Excerpt from "Song of Myself"
Read by Bob Holman
5.
"To a Stranger"
Read by Phillip Lopate & anonymous New Yorkers
6.
"This is the city"
Excerpt from "Song of Myself"
Read by Mary Myers
7.
The peddler sweats with his pack on his back"
Excerpt from "Song of Myself"
Read by Mike Daisey
8.
"Give me the Splendid Silent Sun"
[see music credits]
9.
"And I say to mankind"
Excerpt from "Song of Myself"
Read by Michael Stuhlbarg
10.
"I hear the trained soprano"
Excerpt from "Song of Myself"
Read by Mike Daisey
11.
"Oh You Whom I Often and Silently Come"
[see music credits]
12.
"Walt Whitman, an American"
Excerpt from "Song of Myself"
Read by Michael Stuhlberg
13.
"Through me many long dumb voices"
Excerpt from "Song of Myself"
Read by Jeffrey Wright
14.
"The runaway slave came to my house"
Excerpt from "Song of Myself"
Read by Paul Giamatti
15.
"I am the hounded slave"
Excerpt from "Song of Myself"
Read by Christina Kirk
16.
"A Woman Waits for Me"
Read by Joao do Souza
Courtesy Isaiah Sheffer & Symphony Space
17.
"Hair, bosom, hips, bend of legs?"
Excerpt from "I Sing the Body Electric" [1855 version]
Read by Bill T. Jones
18.
"Earth, my likeness"
Excerpt from "Song of Myself"
Read by Bill T. Jones
19.
"A Noiseless Patient Spider"
Read by Paul Giamatti
20.
"Listener up there!"
Excerpt from "Song of Myself"
Read by Jeffrey Wright
21.
"Failing to Fetch Me"
Excerpt from "Song of Myself"
Read by Jeffrey Wright


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Music Excerpts:

1.
John Adams: "Fearful Symmetries" conducted by Edo de Waart, performed by the Orchestra of St. Luke's [The John Adams Earbox/Nonesuch]
2.
Steve Reich: "New York Counterpoint" performed by Roger Heaton and other musicians [Roger Heaton/Clarinet Classics]
3.
Louis Moreau Gottschalk: "Machenga" from "Etude du Manchega" performed by pianist Cecile Licad [Piano Music/Naxos]
4.
John Adams: "The Chairman Dances" from "Nixon in China" conducted by Edo de Waart, performed by the San Francisco Symphony [The John Adams Earbox/Nonesuch]
5.
Lanny Meyers: "Give me the Splendid, Silent Sun," performed by Jonathan Meyers; courtesy Isaiah Sheffer & Symphony Space [1992 live recording]
6.
John Adams: "The Chairman Dances" from "Nixon in China" conducted by Edo de Waart, performed by the San Francisco Symphony [The John Adams Earbox/Nonesuch]
7.
John Zorn: "Work-A-Day World" (Anton's Theme) [Filmworks VI:1996/Tzadik)
8.
Stephen Foster: "Slumber my Darling" performed by Allison Krauss with Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Mark O'Connor [Beautiful Dreamer - The Songs of Stephen Foster/Emergent]
9.
Vincenzo Bellini: "Innocente, e a noi più cara" from "La Sonnambula," conducted by Antonino Votto and the Orchestra and Chorus of the Piccola Scala [La Sonnambula/Virtuoso]
10.
Gaetano Donizetti: "Verranno a te sull'aure" from "Lucia di Lammermoor," performed by Maria Callas and Giuseppe di Stefano with the RIAS Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin, conducted by Herbert von Karajan [Lucia di Lammermoor/EMI]
11.
Gaetano Donizetti: "Percorriamo le spiagge vicine" from "Lucia di Lammermoor," performed by the Ambrosian Opera Chorus and the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Schippers [Lucia di Lammermoor/Deutsche-Grammophon]
12.
Gaetano Donizetti: Mad Scene excerpt from "Lucia di Lammermoor," performed by Edita Gruberova and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Nicola Rescigno [Lucia di Lammermoor/Angel/EMI]
13.
Ned Rorem: "O You Whom I Often and Silently Come," performed by mezzo-soprano Susan Graham and pianist Ned Rorem [Susan Graham -- Songs of Ned Rorem/Erato]
14.
John Adams: "Mother of the Man" from "Naïve and Sentimental Music," conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic [Naïve and Sentimental Music/Nonesuch]
15.
Ice-T: "O.G. Original Gangster" performed by Ice-T [O.G. Original Gangster, Sire/London/Rhino]
16.
The Stic: "Levitation Dub" [Subtitled Records/Take 1/Guidance Recordings: 2000]
17.
A Tribe Called Quest: "Can I Kick It?" [People's Instinctive Travels and the paths of Rhythm/Jive]
18.
Ry Cooder: "Nothing out There" [Paris, Texas: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack/Warner Bros/WEA]
19.
Bernice Regan Johnson: "There is a Balm in Gilead," performed by Florida A&M University Concert Choir [Wade in the Water, Vol.1: African-American Spirituals: The Concert Tradition/Smithsonian Folkways]
20.
Benjamin Britten: "Moonlight" (from the "Sea Interludes" of "Peter Grimes"), performed by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Libor Pesek [Sinfonia da Requiem & other pieces/Virgin]
21.
John Adams: "The Wound-Dresser" performed by baritone Sanford Sylvan and the Orchestra of St. Luke's, conducted by John Adams [The John Adams Earbox/Nonesuch]
22.
John Adams: "Chained to the Rhythm" from "Naïve and Sentimental Music," conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic [Naïve and Sentimental Music/Nonesuch]
23.
John Adams: "The Chairman Dances" from "Nixon in China," conducted by Edo de Waart, performed by the San Francisco Symphony [The John Adams Earbox/Nonesuch]
24.
John Adams: "Fearful Symmetries" conducted by Edo de Waart, performed by the Orchestra of St. Luke's [The John Adams Earbox/Nonesuch]


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Events and Exhibitions:

“Leaves of Grass at 150”
92nd Street Y
December 12

On December 12, Harold Bloom, Michael Cunningham and J.D. McClatchy will participate in a celebration of Whitman's poetry. Cunningham just based his new book of three novellas, Fine Specimen, on Whitman. Live music and historical recordings of Whitman's poems will be included.
For more information, visit www.92y.org

“Revising Himself: Walt Whitman and Leaves of Grass”
Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Southwest Gallery, 2nd Floor
Through December 2, 2005 and available online

A special installation within the American Treasures exhibition celebrates 150 years of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. This exhibition traces the different occupations and preparations that led Whitman to become the author of that seminal work, as well as his subsequent evolution as a poet. Displayed are selected Whitman manuscript drafts and notes for poems written across the stages of his career. This exhibition is free and open to the public. No reservations are needed.
For more information, visit www.loc.gov or view this exhibition online

"Walt Whitman and the Promise of Democracy, 1855-2005"
South Street Seaport Museum, New York City
Through December 200
5
Timed to the 150th anniversary of the publication of Leaves of Grass in 1855, this exhibit includes a timeline, photographs of Whitman, a copy of the first edition of Leaves of Grass, and six main sections that depict Whitman's "passionate democracy."
For more information, visit www.southstseaport.org

"'I Am With You': Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (1855-2005)”
New York Public Library
Through January 6, 2006

Featuring first and rare editions of Leaves of Grass, manuscript drafts, books, and trial proofs annotated in the poet's hand. Also includes manuscripts and rare books of Whitman's literary heirs, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and others.
For more information, visit www.nypl.org

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Carl Hancock Rux is a multi-disciplinary writer selected by the New York Times Magazine as "One of Thirty Artists Under The Age of Thirty Most Likely To Influence Culture Over The Next Thirty Years" (1994). Rux, a New York City Foster Care alumnus and Columbia University graduate, is the author of the critically-acclaimed novel, Asphalt, the Village Voice Literary prize-winning collection of poetry, Pagan Operetta, and the OBIE award-winning play, Talk.

"Walt Whitman: Song of Myself" was produced by Curtis Fox. Julie Subrin was the associate producer, and the assistant producer was James Murdock. Elena Park was editor and executive producer.

The readers were Mike Daisey, Paul Giammatti, Bob Holman, Bill T. Jones, Christina Kirk, Jonathan Meyers, Mary Myers, Michael Stuhlbarg, Joao do Souza and Jeffery Wright.

Special thanks to Isaiah Sheffer and Symphony Space, Lanny Meyers, Karen Koonrad, Karen Karbiener, Richard Tayson, Chyrstalline Wright. Production support from Ed Haber, Dean Cappello, George Preston, Chris Bannon, and Howard Carolan.


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Links:
» NYU Professor Karen Karbiener discusses Walt Whitman on Soundcheck
» WNYC's Galway Kinnell reads Walt Whitman "To The States"
» Walt Whitman's Notebooks from the Library of Congress
» The Whitman Project celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Leaves of Grass
» Walt Whitman's Birthplace in Long Island, New York
» Recording of Whitman's voice from the Whitman Archive

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