Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mannahatta by Walt Whitman

Bill West of West In New England has extended a poetry challenge:

1. Find a poem by a local poet, famous or obscure, from the region one of your ancestors lived in. It can be about an historical event, a legend, a person, or even about some place (like a river)or a local animal.

2. Post the poem to your blog (remembering to cite the source where you found it.)

3. Did it inspire you to research the subject of the poem and how it relates to your ancestor?

4. Submit your post's link here to me by November 22nd and I'll publish all the entries on Thanksgiving Day!

My contribution is Mannahatta by Walt Whitman. Whitman's Mannahatta (Native American for "land of many hills") is a celebration of New York City glorifying the metropolitan atmosphere that makes the city so unique. Whitman (1819-1892) was born on Long Island and educated in Brooklyn, New York.

My ancestors were some of the "Immigrants arriving, fifteen or twenty thousand in a week." My family also loved everything about New York City, so much so that as my mother lay dying of pancreatic cancer, all she wanted was to see New York one more time.

Below is a reading of the poem via a Cup of Poetry from the Penguin Radio Room, one of my favorite spots to spend time.

by Walt Whitman

I was asking for something specific and perfect for my city,
Whereupon lo! upsprang the aboriginal name.

Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid, sane,
unruly, musical, self-sufficient,

I see that the word of my city is that word from of old,
Because I see that word nested in nests of water-bays,

Rich, hemm'd thick all around with sailships and
steamships, an island sixteen miles long, solid-founded,

Numberless crowded streets, high growths of iron, slender,
strong, light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies,

Tides swift and ample, well-loved by me, toward sundown,

The flowing sea-currents, the little islands, larger adjoining
islands, the heights, the villas,

The countless masts, the white shore-steamers, the lighters,
the ferry-boats, the black sea-steamers well-model'd,

The down-town streets, the jobbers' houses of business, the
houses of business of the ship-merchants and money-
brokers, the river-streets,

Immigrants arriving, fifteen or twenty thousand in a week,

The carts hauling goods, the manly race of drivers of horses,
the brown-faced sailors,

The summer air, the bright sun shining, and the sailing
clouds aloft,

The winter snows, the sleigh-bells, the broken ice in the
river, passing along up or down with the flood-tide or

The mechanics of the city, the masters, well-form'd,
beautiful-faced, looking you straight in the eyes,

Trottoirs throng'd, vehicles, Broadway, the women, the
shops and shows,

A million people--manners free and superb--open voices--
hospitality--the most courageous and friendly young

City of hurried and sparkling waters! city of spires and masts!
City nested in bays! my city!


Penguin Group USA. The Radio Room, A Cup of Poetry. Mannahatta by Walt Whitman.
(accessed 20 November 2009).


Blogger Bill West said...

Of course you made the deadline! Great choice
and link, and thanks for taking part in the Challenge!


November 27, 2009 at 10:37 PM  
Blogger Joan said...

fM, thank you for reminding me of this poem and the relation to our history. I am working on McPhersons and tho they spent 8 yrs in NYC there are few stories of that time. WW gives such a beautiful view of the time and place. Wouldna thought about the poet or poem, if it hadna been for your post.

November 29, 2009 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


So glad I made it in time for the poetry round-up. I enjoyed it!


November 29, 2009 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger Alice Keesey Mecoy said...

I have awarded you the Kreative BLogger. See my post (http://johnbrownkin.blogspot.com/) enjoy the accolades and don't forget to pass it on!

November 30, 2009 at 7:53 PM  

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