In 1855, Whitman published 795 copies of his book Leaves of Grass, paying for publication himself. “Song of Myself,” as it came to be known, was the first experiment in long, free-verse poetry—a poem that former U.S. poet laureate and Whitman scholar Robert Hass calls, “the most unprecedented poem in the English language.” The poem is Whitman’s “song” about democracy and imagination, life and death. With an introduction by Robert Haas, local volunteers read the 52 numbered sections of the 1891 “Deathbed” edition of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself in its entirety.
Commonweal Board Member Eric Karpeles is a painter, author of Paintings in Proust, and translator of Proust’s Overcoat. A graduate of Haverford College, Oxford University, and The New School, he lived in France in the 1970s, holding fellowships both at la Cité des Arts in Paris and the Camargo Foundation in Cassis. Karpeles writes about painting and the intersection of literature and visual aesthetics. Find out more about Eric on his website.