Brooklyn libraries mark 200th birthday of native son
by Salvatore Isola
Jun 11, 2019 | 2516 views | 0 0 comments | 450 450 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For his 200th birthday, America’s poet was celebrated throughout his native borough of Brooklyn.

On May 31 at 4 p.m. at all 59 branches of the Brooklyn Public Library, Walt Whitman’s poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” was read aloud.

At Leonard Street Library in Williamsburg, Speaker Corey Johnson and Assemblyman Joe Lentol took part.

“I was so happy when the Brooklyn Public Library invited me to read ‘Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,’” Speaker Johnson said.

“Whitman describes his commute between Brooklyn and Manhattan,” said Johnson. “We all know how challenging that can be, but it’s a really, really beautiful poem.”

“Whitman was the poet of democracy and inclusion,” said chief librarian Nick Higgins. “He collapsed the distance between high art and the common experiences of everyone. He found beauty in all things, in all people.

“I think it really aligns with the values of public libraries, so that’s what’s really important to celebrate here,” he added.

The poem was chosen because it encapsulates Whitman’s vision for a democratic America.

“I think Brooklyn being in the poem is a little incidental, but he talks about all things that he sees in an urban landscape,” Higgins continued. “Everyone that he looks at, everything that he sees is this sort of a love affair with the city, with the urban landscape, but also the universal love between all people and all things.”

The Leonard Street Library opened 111 years ago, and like all libraries across the city is facing potential cuts to its budget in the coming year.

“We’re in the middle of budget season, and libraries are one of the crown jewels of New York City,” said Johnson. “A place for community, a place for learning, and a place for evolution.”
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