Published by Koharu on 01 Jun 2010

Camden Trip

Despite having taken at least 200 photo’s, filmed at least 30 minutes worth of video  and helping to contribute to a semesters worth of well researched, creative Whitman related projects, I’ve actually had quite a bit of trouble writing this post.

Although I was the only Tech student able to attend the Whitman Conference, there was a diverse mix of opinions, cultures and presentations that somehow managed to include all aspects of the project. For example the students from Novi Sad translated Whitman’s poems into Serbian while the students from Mary Washington came up with a mix of Papers, Poems and Video Projects.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. To start with, the train ride over was absolutely gorgeous. Looking out the window, I saw streams, open fields and old buildings – things you don’t see that often in the city (At least not without having to pay or wander deep into the middle of a large park).

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In a way, there was a physical time line along the tracks. The closer we got to Camden, the older the buildings. Most of the remaining structures were churches, mansions or old factories.

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The Camden Campus was everything you’d expect from a dorm college. Besides large yet somehow unimposing buildings that housed classes, the campus was large with plenty of areas to lounge around or study outside of class, and of course a Starbucks because far and few between are the college students who can go the entirety of their academic career without coffee.

After a short wait, the rest of the students arrived and I was finally able to put faces to some of the writers whose work I’d read over the semester. It’s one thing to see an image of a person online, but it’s completely different to meet them in person.

There was a Whitman statue on campus that everyone stopped to look at on the way to the campus center to lounge, talk about our experience and wait for pizza.


The lounge in the Camden Campus Center

The lounge in the Camden Campus Center

Everyone I talked with agreed that the project and the various types of work that went into it were completely new and challenging experiences. Personally that surprised me since most of the students were english majors and graduating ones at that. However challenging the class was, everyone’s opinion of the course was the same. The Looking for Whitman project was something that made the college experience unique not only for the students, but for the professors as well. The mixing of technology – blogging, tweeting and  making use of social networking- with classic poetry made for a class that produced work as original and quirky as Whitman himself.

A perfect example of that is Sam P’s final video project ‘In search of Wendell Slickman’  which mixed the life of Elvis Presley with Walt Whitman’s which as unlikely as the idea sounds, works perfectly.

We watched Sam’s project along with the presentation of a few others over pizza before hopping on the bus to take a tour of Whitman’s final home at 328 Mickle Street.

No cameras were allowed inside the house, but everything in it was photo worthy. Chairs that Whitman sat in, the stove he cooked on, the stairs he walked up and the bed he slept in – we got to see it all and experience Whitman in a way you can’t get just by reading his work. I couldn’t get any pictures of inside, but I got plenty of photos outside the house and of  his garden.

From Whitman's back yard into the light

From Whitman's back yard into the light




The trip didn’t end here. After visiting Whitman’s home we went to the only other place in Camden where we could feel a physical connection to him – his grave.

DSC04631Unfortunately the Cemetery was closed, but that didn’t stop us from getting in to see Whitman. A conveniently placed and obviously well used hole in the fence allowed us to get to the final resting place of the great writer and bring some closure to the semester. The area in which Whitman and his family are interred is absolutely beautiful.



It was an emotional moment for many of the students as we took turns reading the last few lines of  Whitman’s ‘Song of Myself’. Reading one of Whitman’s greatest works in a place where he could be truly felt brought some closure to what has been the most challenging and rewarding project I’ve ever participated in.  The Looking for Whitman project was a long journey that led many a student in frustrating circles, searching for some link to Whitman to make his presence more tangible than just some old writer remembered only through his books and honestly I don’t think anyone could phrase it better than Whitman himself:

Failing to fetch me at first, keep encouraged;
Missing me one place, search another;
I stop somewhere, waiting for you.

– Walt Whitman “Song of Myself”

Published by Koharu on 14 Dec 2009

Reflection (Final Post)

This has definitely been one of my more interesting classes in college. I’ve never had to do this much research or devote this much time to any course nor have I been encouraged to submit assignments in any format other than the traditional ‘Read the book and write an essay’ format. I came into the class expecting to work, but nowhere near as much as we actually had to do. Honestly, if I’d known about the workload, I would have dropped one of my other classes- it was hard to keep up with such a challenging English class while studying my other subjects.

It was also a little intimidating to be taking a class with English graduate students. Their responses were always well thought out and they thoroughly analyzed Whitman’s work. They also went the extra distance when it came to doing video projects. I honestly didn’t know what to say in response to most of their posts because they covered almost every base of the whatever topic was being discussed.

I wouldn’t recommend this class to anyone who already has a heavy course load or isn’t accustomed to or willing to accommodate hard work. There’s no way to earn a decent grade in this class if you aren’t willing to take the time out to read and update blog posts, travel around to various Whitman related sites and do heavy research. On a more personal note, this at least gave me a glimpse of what’s expected of you when doing graduate level work. It’s definitely not easy, but at least I know I can do it.

The field trips and projects were a welcome breath of fresh air in comparison to the rest of my classes. You can learn just as much out of the classroom as in it, and this class was proof of that. I learned more about Brooklyn than I ever knew before- about the borough’s history and about the significance of landmarks that I’ve seen but ignored all my life. I got to visit a library that looks like it came out of a bookworm’s dream. Despite all the late nights and pots of coffee I needed to finish everything- the class was worth taking.

Published by Koharu on 10 Nov 2009

The Other Side of Whitman (Nov. 10 Post)

The introduction to ‘Franklin Evans’ or ‘The Inebriate’ revealed a side of Whitman that many texts decline to show. Walt Whitman is best known as the people’s poet – a man who dedicated his life to writing poetry with the potential to unite an entire nation. He accepted African Americans as fellow men in a time when the rest of society considered them sub-human. Whitman accepted everyone…except Catholics and Irish Immigrants. In Whitman’s own words, the immigrants were:

Bands of filthy wretches whose very touch was offensive to a decent man; drunken loafers; scoundrels whom the police and criminal courts would be ashamed to receive in their walls.

He went on to call them “sly, false, deceitful villains” and true to his nativist beliefs called on his fellow Americans  to defend the country against an “unterrified democracy” ruled by “Irish rabble”.

Whitman seems to have despised Catholics, calling them “a gang of false and villainous priests, whose despicable souls never generate any aspiration beyond their own narrow and horrible and beastly superstition”. He never passed up a chance to criticize them, a far cry from the accepting poet I’ve come to know over the semester, who was never this blatantly insensitive and insulting even when addressing people with views that opposed his. Whitman was and is indeed the people’s poet, so long as you’re not Catholic, Irish or an immigrant.

Published by Koharu on 20 Oct 2009

Walking Tour (Oct 20th)

The walking tour was an interesting and educational experience. While we walked, we were allowed a glimpse of the world that raised Whitman and procured some of the greatest revolutionary thinkers in American history.
We visited the Plymouth Church near where Whitman lived and where he and key figures in history like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Beecher Stowe attended mass.

The front of Plymouth Church

The front of Plymouth Church

The Plymouth Church is a New York Landmark

The Plymouth Church is a New York Landmark


Then we moved on to the Brooklyn Promenade where Abraham Lincoln himself once said “There may be finer views than this in the world, but I don’t believe it.” While the landscape is notably different than what Lincoln saw during his time in New York, the impact is the same. When you know where to look, New York can be breathtakingly beautiful.

A view from the Brooklyn Promenade.

A view from the Brooklyn Promenade.

Part of the Manhattan Skyline.

Part of the Manhattan Skyline.

A view from the Brooklyn Promenade.

A view from the Brooklyn Promenade.

Even today, there are still water taxis.

The modern day ferry.

The modern day ferry.

Even from a distance, the Brooklyn Bridge is an impressive structure- you don’t need to be close up to see all the detail and hard work that went into a bridge that decades after its construction, still stands solid.

The Brooklyn Bridge from a distance.

The Brooklyn Bridge from a distance.

The Brooklyn Bridge with the Manhattan Bridge in the background.

The Brooklyn Bridge with the Manhattan Bridge in the background.

After that we made our way over to the Eagle Warehouse, a now residential building that once housed the ‘Brooklyn Eagle’ where Whitman worked as an editor. Whitman used to look out his second floor window at Manhattan street. The street below it is still cobble-stoned.

Below Whitman's old window, the street is still cobblestoned.

Below Whitman's old window, the street is still cobblestoned.

Standing on the uneven stone, I couldn’t imagine how people drove carriages or even walked on the streets without falling over.

It's as bumpy as it looks.

It's as bumpy as it looks.

The last stop on out tour was the Fulton pier. Or outside of if at least. The pier was closed for filming today- go figure. That aside, we read the first 4 sections of “Crossing the Brooklyn Ferry while taking in the sights and sounds of Old Fulton Street.


I didn’t just learn about Whitman today, I gained a greater appriciation for the borough I live in.

Published by Koharu on 20 Oct 2009

Oct 20 Post

This is actually two short responses combined into one post on the reading we were assigned this week.

 Mother, Father, Water, Earth, Me:

First off, I can’t help commenting on the descriptions of the New York Whitman grew up in. 

Many of the things Whitman lived through, I can’t really relate to. ‘The Red Death’? I can’t imagine living in a world where one disease could kill 100’s of people a day without a cure in sight. The book describes farms and open fields- the last things to come to my mind when thinking about New York City. The only streams I see are torrents of water going down the gutter on rainy days and all the horse stables have either been demolished or converted into modern looking apartment buildings.  Not to say there’s nothing of the New York he grew up in left- the ferry ride from Long Island is more or less the same, and Brooklyn can still easily be seen as the ‘City of Churches’. You can’t go more than 15 blocks in any given direction without seeing one.

The Shadow and the Light of a Young Man’s Soul

My generation is used to keyboards and tiny entry pads, not selecting characters out of boxes to be laid on printers. Reading about typesetting reminds me of the things I take for granted like printing out directions on a map or a last minute homework assignment…They’re  all things I do in under 30 seconds when the job Whitman did had to take at least 10 minutes, probably more.

Published by Koharu on 13 Oct 2009

The Fate of a Great Writer (Oct 13th Post)

I watched a documentary on Walt Whitman yesterday and I couldn’t help needing to comment on the last few years of his life. Whitman is probably the most determined writer I’ve ever read about. He spent the majority of his life writing and revising ‘Leaves of Grass’ and dealt with society’s reaction to revolutionary thinking in a way that many of us can only dream of. He thrived on criticism, took great pleasure in ruffling the feathers of high society and bragged about things others would sooner die than admit. Put bluntly he was a real person who rarely put up a façade for anyone. He ran himself ragged seeing to soldiers during the civil war, sitting to talk to them and comfort them when no one else would. He was a thinker, a leader and full of life, yet his last few years had more pain and suffering in them than most see in a lifetime. The man who would hop on the ferry and bus to roam around Manhattan was wheelchair bound and almost completely paralyzed. The country he’d aspired to unite through poetry could barely come together even after the death of their president. The light in his eye that had been present through much of his life was gone. After learning more about his life, the line “If you want me again, look for me under your boot soles” takes on new meaning. To me it sounds resigned as if he’s realized that his words cannot reach the people of his time and that they’re too stubborn for change. It made me sad to think that through all his hard work Whitman died without a wife or child-alone.

Suffering through hardships, fighting tooth and nail to lay down your opinion- to chip it into the stone of history so that it may be appreciated not for the society of your time, but for all the generations that may come later. That is the true fate of a great writer.

Published by Koharu on 06 Oct 2009

Before & After: Brooklyn Bridge





What makes the Brooklyn Bridge so special (to me at least) is that it never changes- no matter how far back in time you look it stands a solid fixture in New Yorks rich history.

Published by Koharu on 06 Oct 2009

The Last Great Fire of New York (Oct 6th Post)

There were many contributing factors to the Great Fire of 1835. The city’s water supply had been depleted by small fires over the summer, the city was over crowded, the wind stoked the flames while keeping the water away, and subzero temperatures froze hydrants and hoses making it impossible to fight the flames. The flames could be seen states away and firefighters from Brooklyn and Philadelphia were brought in in an attempt to fight the flames. The fire did around 20 Million Dollars worth of Damage to New York City and destroyed nearly 700 buildings, including the ‘fire proof’ Merchant Exchange. The fire also did major damage to printing and publishing district. Only two out of New York’s six morning newspapers survived the fire, leaving many writers and compositors without work. My focus however isn’t on how much damage the fire did, but why it leveled a portion of the city.
To start, fire trucks back then weren’t what we’re all used to now. Where we have large gleaming red trucks, they had horse drawn carriages and buckets.

old fire engine

They didn’t have air tanks or fire repellant gear and technology to pump water from engine to hose had just been invented. Fire hydrants weren’t readily available like they are today and there was often a distance between a water source and the fire. There was also the issue of how many firefighters were on the job. At the time of the fire, there were only about 1,200 firefighters in a city in the middle of an economic boom. Though this is just my opinion, I think that the fire wouldn’t have been as devistating if the city hadn’t been overcrowded.

Published by Koharu on 15 Sep 2009

Image Gloss: ‘Runaway Slave’



The runaway slave came to my house and stopped outside,

I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile,

Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsey and weak,

And went where he sat on a log, and led him in and assures him,

And brought water and filled a tub for his sweated body and bruised feet,

And gave him a room that entered from my own, and gave him some coarse clean clothes,

And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and his awkwardness,

And remember putting plasters on the galls of his neck and ankles;

He staid with me a week before he was recuperated and passed north,

I had him sit next me at table….my firelock leaned into the corner.

I picked this part of the poem to write on because it is the most distant to me. During the 19th century South, African Americans didn’t sit at the table to eat dinner or get clean clothes and they most certainly weren’t taken into the home of random Caucasians in the south for a week. They were hunted like criminals and had bounties put on their head. To house, bathe, feed and clothe a runaway slave was one of the greatest taboos of the time period.  It’s a testament to how different from everyone else Walt Whitman was.

Published by Koharu on 14 Sep 2009

A Random Poem (For Sept, 15th 09)

The topic of typesetting in class stuck with me for some reason, so I ended up thinking for a whole about Whitman’s life and the stark contrast between the Brooklyn of his time and the borough I know now. I drifted on it a bit (mostly to watch the MTV Music Awards) and came up with a poem (that I might continue later) called: ‘A moment in the life’. For the sake having a plot, imagine a random Brooklynite (not technically a word…) thrown back through the years to the time of Walt Whitman.
It’s not a complete poem yet (since I still have a lot of material to use and a few revisions to go through). I used Whitman’s job at the Patriot, the longer commute between work and home and some of his father’s alcoholic tendencies in this part of the poem, though I’m not sure how severe it was or whether or not his father was a violent drunk.

There’s no T.V.
I can’t text,
I can’t call,
I can’t Tweet.
There’s no electricity.
There’s no T.V.
How I got here is beyond me.
I’m printing homework one minute and the next time I look up?
I’m in another century.
On one of those ancient printing press thingies. How? Why? Don’t ask me.
Well…technically not printing…
More like making the ink.
I haven’t been here long, not more than a day.
But apparently I’m a printer’s apprentice.
The ‘Printer’s Devil’… what a name…
It’s not because the job’s evil… I think.
Maybe it has more to do with the fact you end up covered in that God forsaken ink.
At the end of the work day I let my feet carry me, as my mind drifts away.
It seems like hours…It probably was.
I’m spacey that way.
The lights around me are lit with gas, what with the lack of electricity.
I walk to the door of a nearby house and dig in my pocket for a key.
…I’m used to solid pavement, cars and trains…since when is my house surrounded by trees?
Judging from a sign on the corner, I’m somewhere in Long Island.
There’s still no T.V.
The smell of alcohol perforates the air.
There are bottles on the floor…
I don’t think I want to be here.
But my stomach grumbles- arguing otherwise and I can’t understand my sudden fear.
I mean, other than being in some foreign house in a strange time
Where you can buy expensive things for a dime
Where lights are lit by gas
Where printing is done by hand
Why ever would I need to be afraid?

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