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on the Whitman Archives reception

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  • beltwaypoetry
    Thanks to everyone who came out last Sunday to the reception for the Walt Whitman Electronic Archives! It was a wonderful turnout. To explore the treasure
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 14, 2007
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      Thanks to everyone who came out last Sunday to the reception for the
      Walt Whitman Electronic Archives! It was a wonderful turnout.

      To explore the treasure trove that is the Whitman Archives, see:

      In case you were not able to join us, I will recap briefly: Ken Price
      (co-director of the Archive and Hillegass Professor of American
      Literature at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln) spoke about the
      wide scope of the Archive, pointing out features such as the many
      images of Whitman (he noted that Whitman was the most photographed
      19th century author), manuscripts compiled from collections around the
      world, and the amazing bibliography of all articles, books, and poems
      about Whitman published from 1975 to the present. Ken also told us
      about some exciting forthcoming additions to the site, such as
      translations of Whitman in Spanish, French, Portuguese, and other
      languages. Whitman was a notorious packrat, and Ken ended his
      presentation with a photo of Whitman toward the end of his life,
      sitting in his bedroom in Camden, NJ, surrounded by stacks of papers
      that look like great shifting sand dunes.

      Ted Genoways (editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review and editor of
      Volume VII of Whitman's collected correspondence) spoke next about a
      current project to place all Whitman's letters on line, along with
      documents that place those letters in context. He gave as an example
      the correspondence regarding Erastus Haskell, a soldier who died in
      the Armory Square Hospital (located on what is now the site of the
      Smithsonian Air and Space Museum). The Whitman Archive, unconstrained
      by space as a printed volume might be, contains not only the two
      letters Whitman wrote to Haskell's parents, but also the official
      letter from the Army to Erastus's parents informing them of their
      son's illness, the pass Mr. Haskell created to get access to his son
      in the hospital, another nurse's letter recounting the circumstances
      of Erastus's death, Whitman's draft of the second letter sent after
      Mr. Haskell returned home with his son's body, and a later
      conversation about the soldier Whitman had with Horace Traubel near
      the end of the poet's own life.

      I find this correspondence particularly moving, so I will reprint an
      excerpt here. Whitman's second letter to Haskell's parents begins
      conventionally by speaking of Erastus in the third person. But at
      some point his emotions overtake him, and Whitman writes directly to
      the dead young man: "Farewell, dear boy--it was my opportunity to be
      with you in your last days--I had no chance to do much for you,
      nothing could be done--only you did not lay there among strangers
      without having one near who loved you dearly, and to whom you gave
      your dying kiss."


      The Archive has been honored with a Challenge Grant from the National
      Endowment for the Humanities, and they could use our help! If they
      can raise $1.5 million, the NEH will give them enough money to build a
      permanent endowment to ensure the continuation of their crucial work.
      If you can help, donations of any amount will be gratefully accepted.
      Go to: http://www.whitmanarchive.org/credits/

      And thanks again for your interest!

      Kim Roberts
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