Last night I participated in a most satisfying event. At Pacific Northwest College of Art a staged reading of all 52 sections of Walt Whitman's Song of Myself from Leaves of Grass took place.
The Whitman 150 Project –
A Staged Public Reading of "Song of Myself"
20 October '10 at PNCA
PNCA/ Pacific Northwest College of Art
1241 Northwest Johnson Street, Portland
Reading starts at 6:30 in the Commons
I was proud to read section 47. Some of my poet/writer friends here in Portland also contributed to the event by reading various sections.
What a variety of readers and voices! Old and young, gay and straight, men and women. At one point a young mother with her child in her arms read a section. The little girl, about 4 years old, was frigidity and finally reached for the microphone contributing a well timed "mommy" to the proceedings. It took about two and a half hours to complete the poem. Many of the readers and those in attendance gave themselves a standing ovation at the conclusion.
What struck me most was how many of Whitman's lines hold up these many years later. His comments about war, equality, the need to own or possess things, human rights, and simply being in the moment are all just as important as they were back when.
Mass poetry readings are a good way to build community. Who's next?