Upcoming Events

Walt Whitman Birthday Celebration

The garden at Whitman’s Camden home

Come join us to celebrate springtime and Walt! We will be celebrating Walt Whitman’s 203rd  birthday on Wednesday, May 25th, at 5pm in the garden of the Walt Whitman House at 328 Mickle/Martin Luther King Blvd. in Camden. This year’s event will include the awards ceremony for the winners of the Annual High School Poetry Contest of the Walt Whitman Association, and feature event speaker Maya J. Sorini. Sorini is a poet and med student who creates poetry as a reflection of the trauma and healing that she observes in her medical practice. We are looking forward to welcoming Sorini to our celebration.

The theme for this year’s poetry contest is “caring,” a fitting subject as we come off of the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic. Walt Whitman was a caregiver in the 19th century, volunteering as a nurse during the Civil War and working closely with the sick and injured soldiers in hospitals around Virginia and Washington, D.C. He ruminates on the practice of care and connection in his poems, and was not shy about describing the war-torn scenes that unraveled in front of him. In “The Wound-Dresser,” written in 1865 and published in the 1892 edition of Leaves of Grass, Whitman eloquently paints an image of the intimacy that care brought to an otherwise chaotic environment:

Bearing the bandages, water and sponge,
Straight and swift to my wounded I go,
Where they lie on the ground after the battle brought in,
Where their priceless blood reddens the grass the ground,
Or to the rows of the hospital tent, or under the roof’d hospital,
To the long rows of cots up and down each side I return,
To each and all one after another I draw near, not one do I miss,
An attendant follows holding a tray, he carries a refuse pail,
Soon to be fill’d with clotted rags and blood, emptied, and fill’d
again.
I onward go, I stop,
With hinged knees and steady hand to dress wounds,
I am firm with each, the pangs are sharp yet unavoidable,
One turns to me his appealing eyes—poor boy! I never knew
you,
Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that
would save you.

From The Wound Dresser, 1865 

Whitman’s endless capacity for empathy is honorable, and his time spent in the Civil War hospital tents helped to shape some of his most impactful poetry. But his service is also a model for the present on the importance of reaching out and helping our neighbors and friends.

*If there are any questions about the celebration, please call the Walt Whitman House at (856) 964-5383.