Past Events

2023 Walt Whitman Birthday Celebration

The 2023 Birthday Celebration will be held on Wednesday, May 31, at 5pm in the garden of the Walt Whitman House at 328 Mickle/Martin Luther King Blvd. in Camden. The guest speaker this year will be Professor Tyler Hoffman, scholar of 19th- & 20th-Century American Literature and Culture, and the Chair of the Department of English at Rutgers Camden. Hoffman is the author of a number of titles, including Robert Frost and the Politics of Poetry (New England, 2001); Teaching with the Norton Anthology of Poetry (Norton, 2005); and American Poetry in Performance: From Walt Whitman to Hip Hop (University of Michigan Press, 2011). He will be speaking about the 150th anniversary of Whitman’s move to Camden.

We are thrilled to announce the theme for this year’s poetry contest is “home.” Walt Whitman was a man who felt at home in the wide world. He wrote,

“Locations and times— what is it in me that meets them all, whenever and wherever, and makes me at home? / Forms, colors, densities, odors—what is it in me that corresponds with them?”

This year marks the 150th  anniversary of Whitman’s move to Camden, NJ, his final home. His friend Horace Traubel reports Whitman saying, “Camden was originally an accident—but I shall never be sorry I was left over in Camden! It has brought me blessed returns. But Washington, New Orleans, Brooklyn—they are my cities of romance. They are the cities of things begun—this is the city of things finished.”

Over the course of his life, Walt Whitman called many different American cities home. From Brooklyn, to Washington D.C., and finally to Camden, there were many places where the poet found that he could rest his head. But considering that he wouldn’t own his own house until the last eight years of his life, it begs the question – how did Whitman define a home? One needs only to turn to his collection of poems to get an idea of what home meant to Walt. For this year’s poetry contest prompt, we ask students to reflect on Whitman’s words and on any of the following questions, to inspire poems that speak to their own ideas of home: How do you describe or imagine home? What distinguishes home from any other place? What is it like to leave home? and then to return?  


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
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
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.


Walt Whitman Association – 200th Birthday Celebration

Image Credit: J. Sokol, 1980

May 29th, 2019


On May 29th the Walt Whitman Association will be ringing in the 200th birthday of Walt Whitman with our time-honored Annual Walt Whitman Birthday Celebration and the regional Walt Whitman High School Poetry Contest awards ceremony. This year’s reception and recitation of the winning poems will be held at the Rutgers University-Camden Stedman Gallery, and guests will be joined by Walt himself, portrayed by historian Darrel Ford. The celebration begins at 5pm and will feature poetry readings, cake, and punch. This will also coincide with the opening of the Rutgers’ exhibition Democratic Vistas: Whitman Body and Soul, a contemporary survey of art inspired by the Good Gray Poet. We look forward to seeing you there!

The City Of Camden Celebrates America’s “Poet of Democracy” In Honor Of Walt Whitman’s 200th Birthday

Image credit: Walt Whitman Association

Friday, May 31, 2019


On May 31st the City of Camden along with the Walt Whitman House Historic Site will kick-off Walt Whitman’s 200th Birthday Celebration in Camden, NJ.  The event will take place in front of Whitman’s former home at 328 Mickle/Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and will celebrate the achievements of the world-renowned poet.  The program, which will focus on Whitman’s time in Camden as well as the history of Camden in relation to the historic site, will include guest speakers, a poetry reading, and musical selections, along with a ceremonial proclamation presentation by Camden Mayor Frank Moran commemorating Whitman’s 200th Birthday.

For more information, call the City of Camden at (856) 757-7200 or the Walt Whitman House (856) 964-5383

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Walt Whitman House Legacy Tours

Whitman’s House on Mickle Street, Camden, NJ, circa 1890. Library of Congress

May 22, 2019 – June 9, 2019

In the weeks surrounding the birthday, the Walt Whitman House Historic Site will be hosting special “Legacy” tours that focus on the work that Whitman created while living in Camden, as well as the history of Camden in relation to the historic site. The tours will explore his diary jottings in Specimen Days and his ruminations on the growth of America in With Walt Whitman in Camden by his biographer Horace TraubelThe compilation volume Specimen Days and Collect was assembled during his time in Camden, and illustrates Whitman’s experiences and opinions of his life’s work.

These special tours will be by appointment only, and we expect them to fill up quickly so we encourage those interested to call ahead to secure a spot on the tours. Tours will be held from 10:00am – 11:30am. Reservations can be made by calling(856) 964-5383.

Nothing Else but Miracles: Paul Stankard’s Glasswork & the Spirit of Walt Whitman

Glass artist, Paul Stankard, working in the studio

Tuesday, November 12, 6:00 pm
Stedman Gallery, Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts
Join us for a special evening with internationally acclaimed artist, Paul Stankard. As a pioneer in the studio glass movement, Stankard is considered a living master in the art of the paperweight, and his work is represented in more than 60 museums around the world. This program, in conjunction with our current exhibition, Democratic Vistas: Whitman, Body and Soulwill include an intimate interview with the artist exploring his roots in glass as well as the influence of Walt Whitman’s words and wisdom on his work. Experience the exhibition in the Stedman Gallery, and stay for a light reception after the presentation.
Moderated by Curator Dr. Tyler Hoffman

Democratic Vistas: Whitman Body and Soul

Walt Whitman’s Tomb with marker, illustration by John Giannotti; Walt Whitman’s Garden Orb by Paul Stankard, 2018

May 29, 2019 through December 7, 2019

Rutgers Camden will be hosting “Democratic Vistas: Whitman Body and Soul,” a survey of contemporary art relating to the life and work of Walt Whitman. The exhibition will include work by a variety of artists from all over the country, including sculptor John Giannotti and glass artist Paul Stankard, reflecting on his view of a changing America and dreams for an egalitarian society. The opening of the exhibition and the annual birthday celebration will take place on May 29th at 5pm at the Rutgers Stedman gallery. We hope to see you all there!

How Sweet the Silent Backward Tracings! Preserving the Memory of America’s Good Gray Poet Through Materials, Meetings, and More

Image credit: Ohio Wesleyan University, Bayley Collection

Special Exhibit by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities

Wednesday, May 1, 2019 through Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Memory of Walt Whitman lives on in the 21st century through various venues: annual celebrations, living history actors, academic journals, sculptures in his likeness, and more.  This exhibition, in conjunction with the 200th anniversary of Walt Whitman’s birth, will examine the events, publications, artworks, and other forms of media through which the memory of the Good Gray Poet is immortalized – many of which take place right here in Camden.

Location: Paul Robeson Library, Rutgers University-Camden at 300 North 4th Street, Camden, NJ 08102


Opening Reception: Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking
Image credit: Camden FireWorks Gallery

Exhibition at Camden FireWorks Gallery

Sunday, May 19, 2019


This exhibition of works by artist Joe Plageman features paintings depicting each line of Whitman’s poem, “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” along with other works. The opening reception on May 19 will feature a live reading of the poem while viewing images of the corresponding paintings.

Location: Camden FireWorks Gallery at 1813 Broadway, Camden, New Jersey


125th Anniversary Remembrance

March 26, 2017 at 2:00 pm.  Location: Harleigh Cemetary, 1640 Haddon Ave, Camden, NJ 08103. Walt Whitman’s Tomb.

It’s hard to believe that Walt Whitman passed away 125 years ago on this date yet his legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of many!  All are welcome to come together to commemorate this nostalgic event with a special gathering led by long-time Camden poet and Whitman enthusiast, Rocky Wilson.  Feel free to bring your favorite Whitman poem along to share!


Birthday Celebration 2017

Come join us on May 23rd at 5:00 pm as we celebrate Walt Whitman’s 198th birthday.  We’ll be gathering at the historic home and garden of the poet at 328 Mickle Boulevard. The house will be open for tours, and the garden will be open for a reception, cake, and other goodies. This year’s keynote speaker will be distinguished Philadelphia author, poet and journalist, Thom Nickels. Mr. Nickels has written eleven books and his poetry has been published in various collections (Check out this review of his book, Literary Philadelphia). He is the City Beat editor at ICON magazine and contributes regularly to the Huffington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia City Paper, Philadelphia Daily News and Philadelphia’s Spirit newspapers. He was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award and received the Philadelphia AIA Lewis Mumford Award for Architectural Journalism in 2005. There will also be readings from the winners of the Walt Whitman Association’s Annual High School Poetry Contest.  The theme this year is “The Open Road.”

*Please note: Due to possible rain in the forecast, seating for the event may be limited.

No admission charge.  Donations accepted.  No RSVP required. For more information about this time-honored event call: (856) 964-5383