Honoring the Bard: Whitman fans celebrate Clinton Hill street co-naming

Honoring the Bard: Whitman fans celebrate Clinton Hill street co-naming
Photo by Derrick Watterson

Walt Whitman fanatics from around the borough gathered in Clinton Hill on Saturday to christen a local street corner as “Walt Whitman Way” in honor of the Bard of Brooklyn’s outstanding artistic legacy, said the area’s local councilwoman.

“Brooklyn has always brought big ideas to the world, and we’re ready to commemorate another Brooklynite whose artistic work and influence has spread globally,” said Laurie Cumbo. “Walt Whitman was a cultural icon, visionary, and a true artist in every sense of the word.”

The famed poet’s name now graces the street signs at the intersection of Dekalb Avenue and Ryerson Street — just two blocks from Whitman’s former home, where he penned Leaves of Grass in 1855.

Some attendants used the co-naming ceremony to lobby for their ongoing effort to landmark the lyricist’s former Ryerson Street home between Myrtle and Park avenues — the only of Whitman’s New York City abodes that still stand today, according to one advocate.

“We still have a chance to protect his last remaining NYC home a few blocks from the co-naming site by designating it a city landmark for the benefit of future generations,” said Brad Vogel of the Coalition to Save Walt Whitman’s House.

Saturday’s ceremony — which was part of a City Council bill to co-name 86 thruways around the five boroughs — was preceded by a walking tour from Brooklyn Heights, marking the path the Bard took several times while working on his famous collection of poems during his time in the borough.

Musicians, poets, and singers also graced attendees with artistic renditions of the most beloved works by the poet — whom they also celebrated in May for his 200th birthday — in an effort to preserve Whitman’s memory for future generations of Brooklynites, according to Vogel.

“It helps to remind people that Walt Whitman lived and emerged as America’s poet right here in the streets of Brooklyn,” he said.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kdugg[email protected]glocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.