Camden County Commissioner Jeffrey Nash speaking at the event.

A warm and sunny afternoon greeted the poets, speakers, and visitors at 328 Mickle Street on Wednesday, May 31st. The group that filled the garden were there to participate in the annual observance of the poet Walt Whitman’s birthday. But this year, the Walt Whitman Birthday Celebration was a marker of two anniversaries in one – Walt’s 204th birthday and the 150th anniversary of his arrival in Camden. 

Proclamation from Congressman Donald Norcross

The special circumstances of the day called for special presentations, including two proclamations given by both Congressman Donald Norcross and the Camden County Board of Commissioners. Dalin Hackley, from Congressman Norcross’s office, and Commissioner Jeffery Nash presented the proclamations at the top of the ceremony, just before the winners of the annual poetry contest recited their award-winning poems. 

Proclamation from the County of Camden


This year’s contest finalists were honorable mentions Michelle Goodman (11th grade, Williamstown High School) and Julia Bono (12th grade, Haddonfield Memorial High School), fourth prize winner Emilie Perray (11th grade, Clearview Regional High School), third prize winner Keagan Blake (12th grade, Haddonfield Memorial High School), second prize winner Mia Swiecicki (9th grade, Haddonfield Memorial High School), and first prize winner Lola Cooke (12th grade, Haddonfield Memorial High School.) You can read their winning poems here

Contest winners with Gloria M. Stridick. From l-r: Michelle Goodman, Julia Bono, Mia Swiecicki, Lola Cooke, Keagan Blake, and Emilie Perray.

The poems were followed by keynote speaker Professor Tyler Hoffman, who spoke about the history of Walt’s decision to relocate from Washington D.C. to Camden in 1873, a decision that Walt recalls brought him “many blessed returns.”

Walt Whitman Association President David Stedman with Dalin Hackley from Congressman Norcross’s office.