Walt Whitman Birthplace Association State Historic Site in Huntington Station hosted a time capsule ceremony on Aug. 5 in honor of Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday. Conducted by the WWBA’s board of trustees and WWBA Executive Director Cynthia Shor, the historic event was attended by many public officials on state, county and town levels, members of the chambers of commerces, Walt Whitman personator Darrel Blaine Ford and members of the public. Guest speakers included Long Island Parks Regional Director George “Chip” Gorman, NYS Assemblyman Steve Englebright and Town of Huntington Deputy Supervisor John McCarron.
The event also celebrated the life of William T. Walter, Ph.D. (1931-2020) who served on the WWBA Board of Trustees in 1980 and was Trustee President from 1980-1984 and again from 2010 to 2020. Described as “a visionary” at the ceremony, Walter was instrumental in the creation of the WWBA Interpretive Center which opened in 1999. He also served as the Chairman of the Town of Huntington Beautification Council for over 40 years. Walter’s widow, Sukey, her three sons and family were in attendance for the event. William R. Walter spoke fondly of his father and recited Whitman’s poem “From Montauk Point.”
The idea for the time capsule was initiated by WWBA Trustee Jo-Ann Raia in recognition of Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday in 2019. A committee consisting of Raia, Dr. Maria Basile and Mark Nuccio was formed and funds were obtained from the Town of Huntington’s Cultural Affairs Division with no additional cost to taxpayers. The COVID pandemic sidelined the event until now.
When buried in the near future, the 12” by 12” stainless steel time capsule will contain Whitman memorabilia including a mug and medallion, a boxed original Nathan Hale bicentennial coin from the Town of Huntington along with a photocopy of the original wax seal from the establishment of the Town of Huntington signed by Supervisor Ed Smyth, two coins honoring Long Island State Parks staff, a copy of the Suffolk Hotel Motel bill sponsored by Assemblyman Englebright, manuscripts commemorating the life of William T. Walter, written historic texts and books along with newspaper articles of the current times reflecting a significant economic, political, or social news event and a scroll containing all the names of the event’s attendees on acid-free paper. The time capsule itself has a shelf-life of 200 years.
“The historical materials that we have put into the time capsule tell the story of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association. It is a story of our success in bringing to life the voice and values of “The Good Gray Poet” for generations to come,” said Trustee President Jack Coulehan, MD.
A boulder donated by WWBA Trustee Steve Gittelman will be placed at the site with a commemorative plaque inscribed: “I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love, If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.” — W.W., Song of Myself, Section 52. The time capsule will be opened during Walt Whitman’s 250th birthday celebration in 2069 and then every 50 years henceforth.
“It’s really an incredible cultural asset that we are here to support and to make sure Walt Whitman is remembered 50 years from now when this time capsule is opened. I don’t think anyone is going to forget Walt Whitman. He is one of the literary giants of Western civilization. He is America’s poet,” said Englebright.
Walt Whitman Birthplace Association will be burying a Time Capsule on Friday, August 5 at the Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site, 246 Old Walt Whitman Road, Huntington Station at 1 p.m. The ceremony will also commemorate William T. Walter, Ph.D. (1931-2020) for his long-time leadership and lasting contributions to WWBA as Trustee, Officer, and Member (1981-2020).
The Time Capsule will contain Whitman memorabilia, related artifacts, written historic texts and books along with newspaper articles of the current times reflecting a significant economic, political, or social news event.
A boulder will be placed at the site with a commemorative plaque inscribed: “I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love, If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.” W.W., Song of Myself, Section 52.
This project was initiated during the bicentenary year of Walt’s birth, 2019. The time capsule will be opened during Walt’s 250th birthday celebration in 2069.
The ceremony will take place under a tent with refreshments served. No registration is required, all are welcome.
This project was made possible through the financial support of the Town of Huntington, Suffolk County, and the continued support of New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
As the regular season draws to a close, the Patriots of Ward Melville looked for a win against Walt Whitman to carry that moment into the playoffs. Carry it they did, winning 66-52 at home in the League II matchup Feb. 8.
Senior Frank Carroll topped the scoring charts for the Patriots netting seven field goals and three from the line for 17 points. Teammate Tommy Engel hit two triples, three from the floor and two from the free throw line scoring 14. KJ Anderson banked 12.
Ward Melville head coach Alex Piccirillo pulled his starters later in the game resulting in nine different players scoring. Ward Melville finishes up in League at 12-2, 17-3 overall, for second place behind Northport. Post season play begins Tuesday, Feb. 15.
Join the Huntington Historical Society for its virtual October Lunch & Learn event on Thursday, Oct. 7 at noon as Walt Whitman Birthplace Association Executive Director Cynthia Shor and Docent Iris Jumper offers a virtual tour of the home where Walt Whitman was born in 1819. Afterwards, they will offer a virtual presentation of the permanent exhibit in the Interpretive Center by commenting on the panels which depict Walt’s life in his later years. The presentation will last 45 minutes with time for commentary and Q&A from participants.
Suggested donation is $10.
Your donations will help the Society continue to preserve and share the history of Huntington!
The U.S. Postal Service celebrated the 32nd honoree in the Literary Arts stamp series, Walt Whitman (1819-1892), with a first day of issue stamp dedication and unveiling ceremony on Sept. 12.
The event was held at a most fitting venue, The Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site’s Interpretive Center in Huntington Station, which boasts the second largest Whitman collection in the world, only superceded by the Library of Congress. The farmhouse where Whitman was born sits on the property.
Thursday’s unveiling honored the 200th anniversary of the Long Island native’s birth.
Influenced by the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Whitman wrote over 400 poems including “Song of Myself,” “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” “I Sing the Body Electric,” and his 1855 masterpiece “Leaves of Grass.”
In addition to avid stamp collectors, the event was attended by many elected officials including Assemblyman Andrew Raia, Sen. James Gaughran, Legislator Susan Berland, Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, Legislator Tom Donnelly, Councilman Mark Cuthbertson along with Executive Director of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum Lance Reinheimer, Huntington historian Robert C. Hughes, Executive Director of Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park Vincent A. Simeone, Deputy Regional Director of NYS Parks Brian X. Foley, Regional Director of NYS Parks George “Chip” Gorman and many employees of the U.S. Postal Service.
Michael Gargiulo, WNBC co-anchor of “Today in New York” served as master of ceremonies. “I’m a huge history fan, I’m a huge stamp fan and I’m thrilled to be here,” he said before introducing Cynthia L. Shor, executive director of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association; Jeffrey S. Gould, who sits on the board of trustees of the association; and Erik Kulleseid, commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for welcoming remarks.
The official stamp dedication was led by Cara M. Greene, vice president and controller of the U.S. Postal Service, and Walt Whitman personator Darrel Blaine Ford treated the audience to a soul-stirring reading of “Song of the Open Road.”
“Walt Whitman’s message of equality, tolerance, and the idea that we are all of the natural world, not separate from it, drew international acclaim in the 19th century and rings just as true today,” said Kulleseid, who thanked Shor and the board of directors “for all you’ve done since the 1950s to preserve this site and to educate visitors about Whitman’s vision of what it truly means to be an American.”
“[Whitman] is considered by many as the father of modern American poetry. The key word here is modern because of the topics and themes he explored — freedom, human dignity and democracy — and his stylistic innovations that at times mimicked ordinary speech and the long cadences of biblical poetry. His work continues to resonate with us today,” said Greene before unveiling the 85-cent commemorative stamp, which is intended for domestic First-Class Mail weighing up to 3 ounces.
Designed by Greg Breeding, the stamp features a portrait of Whitman painted by Brooklyn artist Sam Weber based on a photograph of the poet taken by Frank Pearsall in 1869. It depicts Whitman in his 50s, with long white hair and a beard gazing out with his chin resting in his left hand. The light purple background with a hermit thrush siting on the branch of a lilac tree recalls “When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d,” an elegy for President Abraham Lincoln written by Whitman soon after Lincoln‘s assassination on April 14, 1865. It appeared in the second edition of “Drum Taps,” a collection of poems mostly written during the Civil War.
“Why do we honor Walt Whitman? He has had a tremendous influence on poetry, he relaxed the poetic line, dispensing with rhyme and meter and opening the way to what we call ‘free verse.’ He was really the great poet of American democracy — his poems embraced people of all religions and races and social classes,” at a time of great nativism, said David S. Reynolds, author of “Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography.”
Although he witnessed much suffering during the Civil War and endured several strokes, Reynolds said Whitman “never surrendered his optimism … His poetry radiates this joyful spirit. It brims with his love of the beauty and miracles of everyday life … and lifts our spirits.”
Whitman’s poem “O Captain, My Captain” is an elegy written to honor Abraham Lincoln in his work for the country in keeping it unified, said Cynthia Shor, executive director of Walt Whitman Birthplace Association.
Like all poems, the tribute contains a turning point that reveals an overarching meaning. See if you can find Whitman’s message in this poem, written in 1865, the year of Lincoln’s death.
O Captain! My Captain!
our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack,
the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear,
the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel,
the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! My Captain!
rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer,
his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm,
he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound,
its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
The Walt Whitman Birthplace Association hosted its first three-day international conference in honor of Whitman’s legacy. The event was held at Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site at 246 Old Walt Whitman Road in Huntington Station.
“All the presentations opened new roads into interpreting Whitman, whose words are still relevant today in his Bicentennial 200th birthday year,” Executive Director Cynthia Shor said. “Plans are being made for a follow-up conference in 2021.”
About 50 guests each day from both the local community and other parts of New York, such as Queens, attended to see 25 international presenters share their research about Whitman’s impact on cultural, social, historical, literary and gender issues from his lifetime to our lifetime.
Presenters traveled from six countries and 10 states to discuss topics such as translating Whitman’s poems into other languages, the use of his poems in contemporary advertising and the influence of mesmerism and Darwinism in his writing. Creative expressions were also included through poetry readings and open mic, films and music celebrating Whitman. There were nine panels in total, moderated by the association’s board members. Local Walt Whitman “personator” Darrel Blaine Ford dressed as Whitman and posed for pictures with attendees.
The keynote speaker was Professor Ed Folsom, the Roy J. Carver Professor of English at The University of Iowa. His panel discussion was titled “Whitman Growing Old” and he spoke about how Whitman confronted death in his poetry and how he still speaks to poets today, long after his death.
“There has been a gradual, almost imperceptible, shift in our view of Whitman and his work recently, as if we have been searching for the Whitman who can address and respond to a growing cultural despair instead of (or maybe in addition to) the Whitman who spurs on an endless optimism,” Folsom said. “Americans are, after all, at a far different period of the nation’s history than that which he experienced, a point where some of the democratic payoff that Whitman promised should be far more apparent than it is, a point where many of us begin to feel a need for a different Whitman, one more tempered in his outlook, older, pointing not the way to a fully achieved democratic future but rather one who can guide us about how to live in a diminished present on an earth of diminishing resources, in a society where the same old problems — of racial injustice, of grotesquely unfair wealth distribution, of continuing gender discrimination — just keep resurfacing, as virulent as ever.”
Folsom is the editor of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, co-director of the Whitman Archive and editor of the Whitman Series at The University of Iowa Press. He is the author or editor of numerous books and essays on Whitman and other American writers.
The association wishes hearty congratulations to all who took part and is delighted to have hosted an event shedding light on Whitman’s tremendous body of work and his charismatic personality.
This program was made possible with funds from Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation, New York State Parks, Suffolk County, Town of Huntington, New York State Council on the Arts and Huntington Arts Council. The association offers special thanks and appreciation to these organizations for their continued support.
Whitman’s birthplace museum is open to the public seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. After Labor Day, the site is open Wednesday to Friday, 1 to 4 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. The site is located at 246 Old Walt Whitman Road in Huntington Station. For more information call 631-427-5240 or visit www.waltwhitman.org.
The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook unveiled its annual juried art competition last Friday to rave reviews.
Designed to complement one of the museum’s current exhibits, Walt Whitman’s Arcadia: Long Island Through the Eyes of a Poet & Painters, this year’s theme encouraged amateur and professional artists to take inspiration from the written word — whether it be a poem, a quote, a song or a passage in a book, and turn it into something visual. The resulting exhibit is a wonder to behold.
Titled I Sing the Body Electric after a poem by Walt Whitman from his 1855 collection, “Leaves of Grass,” the show features 78 exquisite pieces of art in a variety of mediums including watercolor, pastel, oil, acrylic, sculpture, mixed media and photography, all beautifully displayed in the museum’s Visitors Center.
The exhibit was judged by Ripe Art Gallery President Cherie Rexer; Jessica Valentin, artist and owner of Muñecca Arthouse; and artist Beth Giacummo. The winners were announced at an opening reception.
“I’ve been [at this museum] six years and this is the best juried art show I’ve seen here and I’m so proud to be a part of it,” gushed Neil Watson, executive director at the LIM.
“From the start we all felt this [exhibit] was going to be something really spectacular,” added Lisa Unander, director of education at the LIM, before sharing the judges’ comments and presenting the awards.
Cliff Miller of Seaford captured first place with his oil on gesso panel piece titled “The McDivits,” which was inspired by Anthony Robbins’ quote, “The only impossible journey is the one you never begin.” Second place was awarded to Marsha Solomon of Baldwin for her acrylic on canvas piece titled “Orion’s Sapphire.” Melissa Imossi of Madison, Connecticut, won third place for “Shadowlands,” an oil painting on aluminum, which was inspired by the film of the same name about the relationship between C.S. Lewis and poet Joy Davidman. (See the judges’ comments under each image.)
In addition, each juror individually selected a piece for honorable mention. Giacummo’s choice was “Passerine,” a diorama by Ellen Wiener of Southold. “The main element perched like a passerine reminds the viewer that our relationship with art can strengthen our stance,” she explained. Rexer chose Helena Weber of Bay Shore’s “A Noiseless Patient Spider,” created in soft pastels. “I love it because it feels like it could belong in the Long Island Museum’s collection,” she said.
Valentin selected James Keller of St. James’ delicate abstract photograph “Sinuous,” which was inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s quote, “Moonlight is sculpture …”
“This work … spoke to me so strongly. The mood and light are stunning. I’m in love,” she said.
While the artists were inspired by the written word, visitors to this exhibit are sure to be inspired by their achievements. Don’t miss this wonderful show.
WHEN TO GO: The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook will present I Sing the Body Electric through July 7. The museum is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 adults, $7 seniors and $5 students ages 6 to 17. Children under 6 and members are admitted for free. For more information, call 631-751-0066 or visit www.longislandmuseum.org.
Art reception photos by Julie Diamond/Long Island Museum
When it comes to handling students, the teachers, administrators and faculty members at South Huntington school district have a new mantra these days: WWAD, or “What Would Altebrando Do?”
It’s a tribute to a man who, as a physical education and special education teacher and renowned varsity wrestling coach at Walt Whitman High School for the last 15 years, consistently went out of his way to make students and student-athletes’ lives better — particularly the “underdogs” that struggled in and out of school.
Vincent Altebrando was somebody who once bought a tuxedo and prom ticket for a wrestler who came from a broken home and couldn’t afford them, and then dressed in a tuxedo himself, picked up the teenager and chauffeured him to the big event. He was a beloved local whose nine-hour wake service last month drew a crowd of 3,000 people, where hundreds more had to be turned away.
The renowned coach, a Miller Place resident who died April 20 at Stony Brook University Hospital after being diagnosed with HLH, a rare autoimmune disease, at 51, had a big heart and an infectious laugh, an affinity for belting out Beatles songs, and a tough-love competitive spirit that not only put the district on the map athletically, but helped his players beyond the sport. There really was nothing he wouldn’t have done to help his students, according to those closest to him.
“He was always about the kids,” his wife Kristie Altebrando said. “He was always doing things for them. And just when you thought it was enough because his plate was full, he found more room on it. He’s changed a lot of lives.”
Both in school and at home, she pointed out, referring to their four daughters, each of whom compete in sports, from lacrosse to volleyball and field hockey.
“With his attitude, grace, helpfulness and encouragement, it’s all made them who they are,” she said. “I just hope he’s looking down, knowing that while he was alive he was doing all this for people.”
Robin Rose, Walt Whitman’s head varsity football coach and childhood friend of Vincent Altebrando’s, said the wrestling coach had a myriad of accolades. He won the sportsmanship award at this year’s Suffolk County Wrestling Coaches Association ceremony.
“The best compliment is that Vinny turned athletes into state winners and he helped non-athletes become winners themselves,” Rose said. “He’s a guy this district can’t replace.”
Altebrando also played a large role in launching adaptive physical education and a Special Olympics program for the district’s special needs students.
“It’s an amazing void that he leaves in the school,” fellow Walt Whitman physical education teacher and childhood friend Scott Wolff said. “He was this big, tough, sweet guy; this big center of life in the building and that’s gone now, so we’re all trying to fill a little piece of it — just by building up spirits, being nicer to each other, spending more time with the kids who are struggling. I can already feel the effects.”
Wolff and Altebrando, who was raised by his mother and older brothers after the death of his father at a young age, both went through the Middle Country school system; graduated from Newfield High School a year apart; and were hired at South Huntington Elementary School on the same day in 1994. According to Wolff, Altebrando has been the same since he first met him.
“Vinny was always the best guy to be around — fun, humble and knew how to make everybody feel comfortable and special,” he said.
Terron Robinson, 19, knows that about the coach perhaps better than anybody.
The 2017 Walt Whitman graduate first met his coach as an eighth-grader as a budding wrestler. Robinson said he’d long been cast aside by teachers and other students at school due to his family background — two of his brothers had been to prison, and he thought everybody assumed he’d wind up there as well. He lost his mother at a young age and by the time he was in ninth grade, his father and a brother died, too. It didn’t take long, however, for him to have somebody to turn to.
“In my eyes, that man [Altebrando] was like my father,” said Robinson, who, under the guidance of Altebrando, was a state champion wrestler by 11th-grade. “He saw the good side of me when nobody else did. He was always there for me no matter what. Without him, I’d probably be in a jail cell.”
Altebrando made sure Robinson always had food and clean clothes. He pushed him to do well in school and treat everybody with respect. He took Robinson to the doctor when he was hurt. The coach would even take it upon himself to drive every morning from his home in Miller Place to where his student-athlete lived in Mastic Beach, pick him up and take him to school in South Huntington — where the two of them often worked out together before classes started.
“There was no greater bond I’ve seen between coach and player than the one they had,” Walt Whitman high school athletic director Jim Wright said. “Vinny just saw him as a kid with potential, as a wrestler and also as a person. He brought out the good qualities in Terron and turned him into a citizen.”
Altebrando graduated from Newfield High School in 1984. He was a star athlete on football and wrestling teams, the latter being a somewhat lackluster sport in the district before he came along.
“Then it became an event to go to,” Wolff said, laughing.
Altebrando went to Springfield College in Massachusetts, where he wrestled and received a degree in physical education.
It was during a hectic commute from his first teaching job in Brooklyn that Altebrando bumped into an old familiar face — his future wife — from his high school days.
“We took the train home together and we were engaged within a month,” Kristie Altebrando said. “He was my lifeline, my go-to guy … and it’s overwhelming to see the outpouring of love from so many people for what he’s done and see how many lives he’s touched.”
Natalia Altebrando, 13, a North Country Road middle school student and goalie on a travel lacrosse team, said her father taught her on and off the field how to find courage and strength, and to be kind to others.
“He made such an impact on my life,” she said. “This has broken my heart in a thousand pieces, and the only one who would [normally] be able to fix that for me is him.”
Altebrando’s oldest daughter, Anjelia, 17, will be following in her father’s footsteps and attending Springfield College in the fall.
“He was my role model and really pushed me to work hard for what I want,” she said. “He let me know that anything is possible.”
The 300-book collection, acquired by late Northport resident Marvin Feinstein, contains several first editions
The unveiling of a new library collection at the Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site has allowed it to lay claim to having the second largest Whitman-related book collection in the world.
The Walt Whitman Birthplace Association publicly celebrated its acquisition of approximately 300 Whitman-related books collected by late Northport resident Marvin Feinstein April 26.
“This collection will be of tremendous value to Walt Whitman scholars and historians,” said George Gorman, deputy regional director of New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “It’s an amazing treasure.”
“Ever since I knew Marvin, I knew how much he admired the writing of Walt Whitman.”
– Miriam Feinstein
Miriam Feinstein said her husband, Marvin, was a lifelong book collector turned bookseller. Together, the couple ran M&M Books selling out-of-print, rare volumes at large book fairs up and down the East Coast since the early 1980s.
“Ever since I knew Marvin, I knew how much he admired the writing of Walt Whitman,” she said. “It was always his dream to acquire a full collection of Walt Whitman’s books.”
She recalled how almost every day, her husband, would set off and “invariably” come home with a bag of books. Sometimes he would purchase books by Whitman or one of his other favorite writers, Mark Twain.
Upon her husband’s passing, Feinstein and her sons, David and Allen, reached out to the WWBA offering to donate 40 Whitman-related books, according to Executive Director Cynthia Shor — one of which was a volume containing the complete works of Walt Whitman.
The family then offered to donate half of the remaining collection, about 250 books, which had been appraised at $20,000. The collection contains many rare books including 25 first editions, among which are “Leaves of Grass” and “November Boughs.” The association was only able to come up with funding to purchase 10 additional books and sent Shor to the Feinstein’s home to pick them out.
“This collection will be of tremendous value to Walt Whitman scholars and historians.”
– George Gorman
“When I got there I realized there was not a best book, they were all the best books,” Shor said. “I came back and said, ‘We have to do something more than this. We have to secure this for history.’”
WWBA Trustee Jeffrey Gould stepped forward to donate $10,000 through his Jeffrey S. Gould Foundation to acquire the entire collection, which will become known as “The Norman and Jeanette Gould Library” in honor of his parents.
Jeffrey Gould said his parents started up a publishing company in Queens during the 1950s, like Whitman, and ran their own printing presses.
“It’s such an amazing parallel to our own lives,” he said. “We can help spread the word of literacy with Walt’s magnificent writings.”
The collection will be housed and preserved in a bookcase on the birthplace’s premises, among its other exhibits in the main hall. It will be available to the public for scholarly research, historic documentation and those who generally appreciate Whitman’s writing.
Trustee Tom Wysmuller said with this addition, the birthplace’s collection of Whitman-related books is second largest only to the Library of Congress.
“They don’t have to go to Washington D.C. anymore, they can come right here,” Wysmuller said. “You can come here and steep yourself in history.”
The Second Saturdays poetry series will be returning to All Souls Church, 61 Main St., Stony Brook, on February 10 at 11 a.m. Suffolk County Poet Laureate Gladys Henderson will host the readings. The featured poet will be Darrel Blaine Ford, a Walt Whitman devotee for more than 75 years. He will read poems from Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass,” including “Song of Myself.”
Ford was born on Long Island in 1930, where Whitman had been born more than a hundred years before. Similar to Long Island’s most famous poet, Ford has long white hair, a snowy beard and stands over 6 feet tall. He has often said that he and Walt Whitman have much in common.
“I’m a happy guy, and I think Whitman was, too,” Ford said. “There are people who stress his loneliness, and that was certainly a component of his life, but I think he was a glass half full rather than a glass half empty sort of guy. I wish I were as creative as he was, but I think I have the capacity to appreciate creativity, and I know he did, too.”
The poet has been impersonating Whitman since 1987, often visiting schools and libraries on Long Island dressed as the “The Good Gray Poet” — complete with a carpetbag and a cane with his face carved on it.
“I had no great desire to be more than what I am, and that is just somebody who is available when you need a Whitman,” Ford said.
An open reading will follow the intermission, and all are welcome to read their own work or that of another. Please bring a can of food to donate to help feed the hungry in our area. For more information, call 631-655-7798.