Walt Whitman would be delighted with all the attention paid to him on his birthday. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that if he were alive today, he’d blog more often than Neil Gaiman, post more selfies than James Franco, and have more Twitter followers than Lady Gaga. Years ago when I visited Whitman’s home in Camden, New Jersey – now a museum – then curator Margaret O’Neill told me the poet was very concerned with how he would be remembered. So much so, he spent over $4000 on a memorial tomb that he designed for himself. (By today’s standard, around a million dollars.)
I came to Whitman’s poetry late – Dead Poets Society late. But more so ten years later when I read Gary Schmidgall’s biography Walt Whitman: A Gay Life. I made a two-part radio program featuring the author and my visit to the poet’s home. Since then, his poetry has often infused my work. But to be honest, I’ve never been able to sit down and read my battered 500-page copy of his epic life’s work Leaves of Grass from beginning to end.
After a series of personal tragedies Gustav Mahler composed what he called his most personal work, which he based on Chinese poetry. A few years later, still suffering from serious depression, Mahler traveled to Leiden in the Netherlands to consult with Dr. Sigmund Freud. The date was August 26, 1910.
Click on the link below for more, including 30 minute audio feature I produced in January 2005 for the series Vox Humana. It was a finalist at the New York Festivals & the Prix Marulic Festival in Croatia.