WAMU's Metro Connection today offers up an interesting interview with Kim Roberts, editor of Beltway and a Walt Whitman scholar.
The interview mostly highlights the connections between Whitman and Washington, D.C. His time as a nurse in D.C. during the Civil War as well his admiration of Lincoln and fascination with the politics of war make for an interesting segment. They do make a little too much of how Whitman treated the wounded of both sides; this was actually quite common for nurses and doctors during the war. Other than that, it's worth a listen. Also interesting, because D.C.'s direct involvement with the Civil War is so often forgotten. With all the battlefields in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania people forget how involved the people of D.C. (and by this I mean the people who actually live there, not the politicians) were.
I remember the first time I ever heard of Whitman. It was in the 3rd grade, and I remember being amazed that this man was both a journalist and a poet. And then a nurse during the Civil War on top of it all. Even today, something indefinably American hides within his words. Maybe it's plain accessability of his words, despite his lyrical flow. Unlike so much poetry, and art in general, it has a flow that easy to track with and still holds up well today. I have a few Whitman books---Leaves of Grass, a Best of, and a bio on his time as a nurse---sitting on the bookshelf behind me. It's past time to dust them off and remind myself why I bought them.