Song of Myself, on a barge in Red Hook

Saturday evening there was a fundraising event on the historic museum barge in Red Hook; the reading of every last canto of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself, as read by a number of local luminaries. It began before and ended just after sunset over Brooklyn’s Buttermilk Channel and Erie Basin, the once-Dutch, fierce little neighborhood called Red Hook.

I’ve long had emotional ties to ol’ Walt on account of my father being a fan; he passed it to me. So when I read him in high school (the same all girls Catholic school with fierce teachers that managed to get A Handmaid’s Tale on our reading list), I was all in.

Walt Whitman reading on Red Hook barge
Interior of the barge from where I stood
Walt Whitman reading on Red Hook barge
My dear friend, Tara Lynne, reading Canto 23

Walt Whitman reading on Red Hook barge
The program
The drawing as it looked when we left, in pencil.
Walt Whitman reading on Red Hook barge
The plants in boots nearby the gangway

A pleasant surprise (in addition to some celebrity personages) was that one of my classmates from aforementioned high school was among the readers. I ought to’ve stayed to say hello, but it was crowded and felt like it may have been complicated after so long. Her name is Alison Smith; I read her book Name All the Animals a few of years back. It was really well written; poignant and heartbreaking. It was the first time I’d seen her since high school, and brought some memories to mind.

Proceeds went to the ACLU, PEN America, NEA, Sunny’s Bar (Red Hook), and to the Waterfront Museum (the host of the event). It was a fine reward after a seven mile wander, followed by a feast at Ice House.

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