May 23, 2017 – A Packed House
A successful celebration for Walt Whitman’s 198th birthday
Even with grey skies and the threat of rain, the backyard at the Mickle Street House was packed with visitors on Tuesday, May 23. Luckily, the rain held and guests were in for a gorgeous afternoon of poetry, cake, and speeches.Overall, it was a perfect afternoon to commemorate Walt Whitman’s 198th birthday.
Because of the clear weather, visitors were treated to a gorgeous ceremony held in Whitman’s backyard. The guest speaker, Thom Nickels, read a beautiful tribute to Whitman and his time in Camden. The ceremony also featured presentations by some staples of the Whitman House. Noted Walt Whitman impersonator Darrel Ford did a reading of “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” and additionally curator Leo Blake recited “O Me! O Life!”
The winners of the annual poetry contest were also in attendance, and their presentation of their poems was the highlight of the afternoon. This year’s theme was “Song of the Open Road,” and Whitman’s influence was evident. Each of the winning poems dealt with themes of the spiritual and metaphysical, loss and memory, and nature – all of which are some of Whitman’s favorite subject matter.
Most noteworthy were the presentation of the winning poems, which allowed the poets to bring their work to life. The winners read their poems in the following order:
- Gemma Miller, Grade 9, Haddonfield Memorial High School, “Imaginary Numbers” Honorable Mention
- Anna Swartley, Grade 9, Haddonfield Memorial High School, “African Stars” Honorable Mention
- Savannah Sichelstiel, Grade 9, Haddonfield Memorial High School, “An Account Adrift the Greenery” Fourth Place
- Hadley Christman, Grade 12, Haddonfield Memorial High School, “The Journey of You and Me” Third Place
- Grace Schaffer, Grade 9, Haddonfield Memorial High School, “In Retrospect” Second Place
- LaRae Tillery, Grade 12, Cinnaminson High School, “Apud Mortem” Bernadette M. Stridick First Place
After the ceremony, the poets and visitors celebrated with cake and tours of the house.