Day 5: Brooklyn with Walt Whitman and Hart Crane and The Book of Mormon

Today was a momentous day for honouring Walt Whitman’s wonderfully Quaker imagination and Hart Crane’s spiritualisation of one of the icons that preceded modernism.

Whitman was of course passionate about the Brooklyn Ferry which he travelled on regularly from his home in Brooklyn to Manhatten.  But it was not just the ferry, but it was the human freight, past, present and future, that inspired his imagination and his song of praise to all creation. First we stopped at the Walt Whitman Park:

Walt Whitman Park

Whitman Park was the place where Whitman had his first major volume of poems (Leaves of Grass) privately published. It was also near where his home was. A memorial to him has extracts from key poems embossed onto a concrete circle at the centre of the park:

Here is Eric’s introduction to this park:

We moved from here down to a view over the Hudson which was approximately the route that Whitman would have taken by Ferry across to Manhattan:

View from Brooklyn 2

We were trying to imagine how the skyline Whitman would have seen would have been dramatically different with low brown-stone and timber houses covering the island. It was here that Whitman’s celebratory poem “Brooklyn Ferry” was read:

This is the kind of wooden house that would have covered most of Brooklyn and Manhatten at the time:

Dutch House Br

Here Eric and Bob told us something about the environment around this house, which is now very close to a freeway:

We walked from here past a number of other significant locations. Here was the house that had been inhabited in the basement by famous Brooklyn author Truman Copote:


Here also was the famous Plymouth Church:

From here we made our way towards the Brooklyn Bridge, creative stimulus for Hart Crane’s celebrated book-length poem The Bridge:

To give you a real sense of what it is like walking over the Bridge (singing Hart Crane’s words in your head, and hearing the whistling wires around you:

And to cap off this experience here is a Panorama that includes the Manhatten skylineL


Coming off the Bridge we entered down-town architecture that complements this amazing Bridge with its diversity and creativity:

And it is hard to resist how this landscape opened up for those who continued on down to Battersea Park (featured in the opening pages of Washington Square) past the new World Trade Centre and Ground Zero:

Here is Battersea Park along with the Clinton Fort at the very tip of the Manhatten Island where the Dutch first made landfall:


The day would mot have been complete without yet another Broadway show, this time the controversial, musically exciting The Book of Mormon, to which we invited our guest lecturer from NYU Nick Birns and his wife Isabella Smalera:

Thank you Nick for whipping up this portrait in oils while sitting close by in the theatre: genius!



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