The Project

“What Is It Then Between Us?” —Crossing Brooklyn Ferry


Read Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Out Loud

Happy Birthday, Walt Whitman celebrates the bicentennial of Whitman’s birth by inviting Americans throughout 2019 to participate in a public reading of his inspiring poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry. For poetry and book groups, public libraries and bookstores, scholars and teachers who want to celebrate the anniversary Happy Birthday, Walt Whitman provides a simple, accessible, and meaningful way to do so. By joining in the project participants will not only be supported and guided by the national project, but will contribute to a national conversation about Whitman and the barbaric yawp he sounded over the rooftops of the world — particularly in regards to our interconnectedness and our American democracy.

Participants are invited to read Crossing Brooklyn Ferry out loud at their libraries, in a poetry club, in class, in public, or at a panel discussion event organized by an arts organization. Participants hosting public events are encouraged to inform us of them in advance so we can share dates and location on our calendar and social media. And those documenting their readings with a photo or video are invited to upload those to our Instagram and Facebook pages.

To help broadcast our vision we’re partnering with numerous local Brooklyn organizations to read Crossing Brooklyn Ferry throughout 2019. For example, on Whitman’s May 31, 2019 birthday, the Brooklyn Public Library is hosting simultaneous readings of the poem at all 58 of their branch libraries. Beyond these initial events participants are encouraged to envision and plan their own programming, creating a democratically run celebration across the country. As Whitman writes in CBF: “Who was to know what should come home to me? Who knows but I am enjoying this?”

Answer Whitman’s Challenge

Walt Whitman scholar Ed Folsom wrote:

“No American writer has been more influential, nationally and internationally, than Walt Whitman. Poets from his time to our own, in the United States and around the world, have talked back to Whitman, carrying on the conversation that he initiated over 150 years ago—a dialogue about democracy, poetry, love, death, and the endless permutations of life that he believed would define America and eventually produce a republic equal to its ideals.

It is difficult to become a poet in the United States without at some point coming to grips with Whitman, answering the challenge that he issued to future generations, to the “Poets to come”: “I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future,” he said, “Expecting the main things from you” 

Our hope is that after reading Crossing Brooklyn Ferry with your class, in your poetry group, or at your local library or bookstore, you’ll be prompted to continue this discussion that Whitman initiated, to answer his challenge. Are we in fact connected? Do we still want this democracy that Whitman fought for? Is our democracy in fact equal to our ideals?

Post your photos and videos to our Social Media Pages

Share a photo or video of your reading on our Instagram or Facebook pages for others to see.