by Tolga Ayakta
Walt Whitman understood the sadness of death and he knew death was inevitable. However, he took it as a celebration of life. He believed it’s all about life, death defines life. Death is just another phase of life. If it is lucky to be born, then it is lucky to die. Whenever a sprout blossoms, he proves there is really no death.
Today is the 118th anniversary of Walt Whitman’s death. “But he is not really dead, because we are talking about him tonight and we read his poems,” Professor Emeritus Lorenzi said at the opening part of the program in celebration of Whitman’s life and his works. “The Smallest Sprout Shows There is Really No Death” was the title of the first part of the five-series program; “Originally American: Walt Whitman – Celebrating and Singing America’s Bard” presented by Camden County College’s Center for Civic Leadership and Responsibility. The five-series program is supported with the generous grant funding of The New Jersey Council for the Humanities.
On March 25, 2010 at 7 pm people gathered in Civic Hall inside the Connector Building on the Blackwood Campus. The head of The Center for Civic Leadership and Responsibility John Pesda welcomed everyone to the event and he stated: “Opinions declared during this event are not necessarily the opinions of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.” Following him, one of the program coordinators for the series CCC Professor Michael Billingsley informed the audience about the process of creating the program with the co-program coordinator Eileen Radetich. In addition, he introduced Professor Emeritus Robert Lorenzi to the audience.
Thereafter, A Montage of the Poetry in Leaves of Grass was vocalized by Allison Green, Lynn Boianelli, and TerraAnn Madden. Professor Lorenzi described Whitman as “The poet of democracy where all equal, the representative of all people, and the common denominator for all of us.” Professor Lorenzi informed the audience about Whitman’s early life, his influences, his affection for America, and significant moments in his life to create an understanding of Whitman’s themes and his career. As Professor Lorenzi enlightened the audience, Allison Green and her group embellished the room with Whitman’s poems. Most of the audience closed their eyes and listened to the naive lyrics of a sophisticated philosophy.
An open discussion followed the presentation. Professor Lorenzi answered the questions of the audience and he included, Whitman’s father’s death, his brother’s suicide, Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln influenced him to write about death. 118 years after Whitman’s death, people left the Civic Hall with his words in their minds: “I am not contained between my hat and boots.”