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School of the air resents why he is a writer a writer is produced by radio station under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters program. How about 1855 while he was living in Brooklyn New York. Walt Whitman published at his own expense a book of poetry which he called Leaves of Grass the few people who bought the book claimed they didn't like it. The few people whose business it was to be critics agreed that they didn't like the poems either. However Walt as his friends called him sent a copy to Ralph Waldo Emerson who was then America's great man of literature. And from Emerson came this reply. I'm not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of Leaves of Grass. I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet
contributed. I'm very happy in reading it. His great power makes us happy. I give you joy of your free and brave. I have great joy in it. I find incomparable things comparably well. I greet you at the beginning. How was it that only one man recognized immediately as the great poet was once writing hard to understand. What did he write about. Morning he wrote about people not again. Yep and in those days Walt spent a lot of time with people. He'd start out in Brooklyn population ten thousand then and walk. Walk until they came to the Fulton Ferry.
Last week. I had some printing to do. It was good weather a whole week. Seems like the summer will be that way. Save the ferry too. They'll have to patch it up anyway. I was waiting all week for the smell of this water. Say what kind of printing are you doing. Yep. Wish I'd learned something like that you have seen it all right there in black and white. There is no wind through your hair but it's warm in the winter when you know you'd never go on shore. Guess not but it don't harm none to think I could make up to do something else. Like that ferry and when he landed on the Manhattan side he liked the open air of horse cars that went up Broadway. Walt knew all the drivers Broadway Jack Bucky Bill George storms where of you have been led. No one senior in three weeks just a week.
I was the boy boy and I never see the spring of 50 here again. Where you been keepin yourself running. I thought sure you'd be off to Long Island by the ocean. Maybe next week. My brother is not back there yet. And how's your father. Next stop 23rd Street. Still in bed. I thought sure this warm weather and warm his bones told him what you said last time. And what did he see. He thought maybe you were right. Right right. It was the McCarthys that put the police on Flatbush. They put a new horse on this car. How do you know. Well hold his head lower. Blog like to talk and to watch things and to ride up Broadway to the end of the line and other times. I'm glad you came Walt. You know there's something about watching the way the ocean rolls and I suppose to take someone from the city to notice it.
I'm used to it I suppose. Here you see it every day but it's not just having the ocean there or even hearing it when you're in the house. That's what the ocean is it and it is something you see and hear. It's a symbol a symbol of what you know oh I don't know. Well it's a symbol of America. How do you come by that. It's big. I don't know it's great fast. That's America. And there are a million parts to it. If you take some away some more will take it's place. It's. It's life. All of life. So now it's life. Let yourself go George just feel it. Well if I was free you are free. You know. I mean free like you are. Free to walk. Talk see just to hear what's going on. Now I figure everyone's free to do that. Of course some people don't much care for it. That's all right but you're different. Well you see the ocean is not a symbol to most folks.
It's just plain water. Well it's water to just plain water. All right just plain water. That's all right folks bathe in this ocean and they sail across it and they're drowned in it. That's what I mean well most folks don't even think about it. I suppose that's why I like it when you're here and you see things well. And most of. The. Litter. Most folks don't. Why is that why people didn't take primate in Leaves of Grass. Was there something in those poems that said to them. Isn't it strange you see what I see and never think about it. Well perhaps. But Walt didn't get excited about it. People were people. And he wrote about oh. I am.
A card. Under this plan the married and unmarried children ride home to their Thanksgiving dinner. A pilot seizes the kingpin he heaves down with a strong arm. Mate stands braced in the whale boat lands and harpoon. The duck shooter walks by silent and cautious stretches the deacon's are Dane with crossed hands at the altar. The spending girl retreats and advances to the home of the big farmer. He wrote about America. These were the things he saw and knew and felt but the people who read his poem said what kind of poetry is that it has no rhyme. What was rhyme necessary poetry doesn't need rhyme. Watch the blacksmith's or hear the wind blow through the trees there is no rhyme to it but it's poetry. Yes summer it's poetry just the same.
In short it had new ideas about poetry. He didn't care if the moon rhymed with June and June rhymed with soon. Welcome to the lands of pine and oak. Welcome of the lands of lemon and Fig. Welcome the lens of gold. Welcome are the lands of wheat and maize lands of sugar and rice. Welcome the cotton lambs Mississippi California Minnesota Penobscot Bay Rio Grande the Maine shapes arise shapes of democracy total result of centuries of poetry was big big as America. Then in 1861. There were. Wars. America was fighting one half against the other.
And the world the world walk to Washington. And that's where Walter was. Talking to. Talking to them. Doing. It. And one of the hospitals I find Thomas Ailey Company m 4th New York cop a very regular Irish boy a fine specimen of youthful physical manliness shot. Dying. He had come over to this country from Ireland to enlist as not a single friend or acquaintance here. Is sleeping soundly at this moment. August 18th. I see the president almost every day as I happen to live where he passes to or from his lodgings out of time. It was when
I saw him this morning he always has a company of 25 or 30 cavalry. I see very plainly Abraham Lincoln's dark cool round face with the deep cut lines of the eyes always to me with a deep light and a sadness in the expression. We have got so that we exchange bottle and suddenly the president was shot. The president was dead. And to Walter as he wrote. His great star. Lincoln. When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom. And the great star Lee Drew. In the western sky in the night. I mourned. And yet mourn with ever returning spring. Oh powerful Western fallen star. Oh shades of
night. Oh great star disappeared. All helpless soul of me. And the war ended when the office of the secretary of the interior Mr. Secretary I know all about Whitman was a very gentle creature creature indeed a wild one if you ask me and I'll thank you not to interfere and Ray must have his love. Let him go back to his trade. He's a printer isn't given it up he says. Not my concern. And while I'm secretary of the interior of these United States he shall not work under my direction. Yes you have a match. My cigars gone out. Fraid not. You don't smoke do you. No sir you suppose I'm a beast
now don't you. I can't see well I can. Leaves of Grass Phil and that man under me no sir and I'm not the only one who feels that way. What is America coming to when men like that write books like that and pass them along to decent people. He was appointed because I am well aware of the small favors he did for the wounded during the war. However the war is not over and his contribution forgotten. I don't care to argue with my assistance. I gotta have a man like that under me. Love wasn't broken by such things. Love was as strong as the country he loved. And if there were things he didn't like. That's all right George. Do anything. I don't like fighting with a jackass. You don't win very much if you win. Why don't you come back to Brooklyn. I don't go worrying the attorney general's office says there's a job for me there. Things work out well. What was important anyway.
A job a few dollars this way or that I saw in Louisiana a lot growing and wouldn't people get to know him. What do you think in doors time. A little more time a little more time and leaves of grass would win out. More as I celebrate. Myself. And Walt himself was America itself. The great new stumbling finding enemies making friends always always alive one man to another. In today's program where Victor Blatter and Mary who are studio engineers written by Floyd Horowitz and directed by.
This is Carter speaking. This has been another program on the air under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center and is distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters.
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Why is a writer?
Walt Whitman, the free American
Producing Organization
University of Iowa
WSUI 910 AM (Radio station : Iowa City, Iowa)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program focuses on American poet Walt Whitman.
Series Description
Produced by the Iowa School of the Air, this series focuses on various works of literature from Shakespeare to Twain.
Broadcast Date
Media type
Actor: Stribling, Don
Actor: Keaton, Tom
Actor: Keeler, Tom
Actor: Siberry, Mary Kay
Actor: Burnett, Vic
Actor: Bauer, Al
Announcer: Carter, Dave
Director: Walcoff, Larry
Producing Organization: University of Iowa
Producing Organization: WSUI 910 AM (Radio station : Iowa City, Iowa)
Writer: Horowitz, Floyd
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: S60-6-11 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:30?
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Chicago: “Why is a writer?; Walt Whitman, the free American,” 1960-12-09, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 8, 2023,
MLA: “Why is a writer?; Walt Whitman, the free American.” 1960-12-09. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 8, 2023. <>.
APA: Why is a writer?; Walt Whitman, the free American. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from