Celebrating Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday: Remembering the iconic Brooklyn poet

May 30, 2019 By Scott Enman, Paul Frangipane, Lawrence Madsen
Walt Whitman. Enhanced Image by Great Bridge Associates
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Whitman became one of the most influential American poets in history. He’s well-regarded all over the globe for his collection, “Leaves of Grass.” He’s honored with pride at the Brooklyn Eagle as one of the most famous of editors past.

More than that, though, he has a deep significance to the people of Brooklyn; perhaps a deeper one today than even in his own time.

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“He’s a rather contemporary folk hero in many ways,” borough historian John Manbeck told Brooklyn This Week. The Whitman known to Manbeck defended small businessmen, farmers and taxi drivers. “He loved the common person,” Manbeck added, “and he loved the average person.”

Local high schools are still carrying the core of his literary legacy. At the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights, for example, Celeste Tramontine sends her students out into the streets of Brooklyn reciting poetry so they can “look at New York with new eyes; with the eyes of a lover,” which is how she says Whitman lived.

  • Interview with John Manbeck at 1:38
  • Interview with Celeste Tramontine at 5:32
  • Interview with Brad Vogel at 12:28
  • Interview with Ron Howell at 20:34

Brooklyn this Week‘s host Lawrence Madsen is a native New Yorker. He attended Columbia University, and volunteers with the disaster relief group Team Rubicon.

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