“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. So medicine, law, business, engineering… these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love… these are what we stay alive for.”
—Leaves of Grass
Walt Whitman, US Poet of Camden
Walt Whitman (1819-1892) is widely regarded as one of America’s best-known poets. His career included such diverse roles as a journalist, an editor, a Civil War nurse, and even, in his final years, various public service jobs in Washington, DC. His most popular work is Leaves of Grass, a poetry collection he originally copyrighted in 1855, when he was in his thirties, followed by expanded editions published into his sixties. Read more about this major literary figure here: https://poets.org/poet/walt-whitman.
Readers can now find Walt Whitman’s work in the public domain, thanks to Project Gutenberg, at https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/600, as well as through the comprehensive archive of his work, letters, and biographical information at https://whitmanarchive.org.
According to https://crowd.loc.gov, “The Library of Congress holds the largest number of Walt Whitman materials in the world, including drafts, notes, fragments, letters, poetry, and prose in the Charles E. Feinberg collection of Walt Whitman Papers and other collections in the Manuscript Division.” A crowdsourced campaign for this material ended July 12, 2021.
Whitman’s personal life and perspectives are not without controversy, as scholars continue to explore the mind of the legendary poet. Read about that here: https://daily.jstor.org.
The Walt Whitman House at 330 Mickle Boulevard in Camden, New Jersey, is open to the public. Tour reservations are required as the capacity is very limited.
Whitman lived in this house during the final eight years of his life, though he initially moved to Camden approximately ten years earlier. For information, please visit: http://thewaltwhitmanassociation.org.
His final resting place is a short drive away at the Harleigh Cemetery located at 1640 Hadden Avenue.
Fans of Walt Whitman should also head to Washington, DC, where he has been memorialized in numerous places. Search “Walt Whitman Walking Tours” through your favorite search engine to see opportunities for docent-led tours following Whitman’s footsteps around Washington, DC. More on Literary Washington, DC, can be found here: District of Columbia Author Adventures Trail.
Traveling east-west, the Walt Whitman House is the final stop on the New Jersey Author Adventures Trail.