Call it a ’cast of multitudes.
Local history buffs the Bowery Boys will discuss the literature and legacy of Brooklyn bard Walt Whitman at the first-ever live taping of their eponymous podcast at the Bell House on Jan. 11. The event, presented as part of the four-day Brooklyn Podcast Festival, will focus on the role that Kings County played in shaping the poet’s best-known work, according to the show’s co-host.
“A lot of people consider ‘Leaves of Grass’ in particular the most important piece of literature about Brooklyn,” said Carroll Gardens resident Greg Young. “It’s clear that his experience in Brooklyn is what inspired it.”
Young and co-host Tom Myers — who dwells in the distant land of New Jersey — will spend the first half of the show exploring the historical context of 19th-century Brooklyn, when Whitman spent nearly three decades moving between the borough’s various neighborhoods, including Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, and Downtown, Young said.
The duo will then discuss how the Borough of Churches inspired some of the scribe’s writings — including “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” and “Song of Myself” — with Whitman scholar and New York University professor Karen Karbiener, who is also the leader of the Walt Whitman Initiative.
Whitman’s mark on the Better Borough was not limited to his poetic writings: the author spent two years working as the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle — an institution unrelated to the current newspaper that uses the name — and used his post to pen editorials pushing the city to make Fort Greene Park a reality, Young said. The outspoken editor also advocated for the park’s Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, which marks the crypt for more than 11,500 men and women locked up by the British during the Revolutionary War.
“He was always really engaged with Brooklyn’s Revolutionary War history — it pops up all the time with his writing,” Young said.
The show will conclude with local poets reading some of Whitman’s works and a conversation with local preservationist Brad Vogel, who has led the so-far-unsuccessful charge to landmark the poet’s Clinton Hill home on Ryerson Street, where he allegedly compiled “Leaves of Grass.”
The show will be eventually released as a podcast episode of the Bowery Boys, but Young says that local listeners should come out to the live taping to experience first-hand the energy of the evening.
“It’s going to be a kind of simulation of what our recording sessions are like, but I want to make it a little bit more of a dynamic, entertaining show,” he said.
The Bowery Boys at the Bell House (149 Seventh St. between Second and Third avenues in Gowanus, www.thebe
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