April is National Poetry Month, a celebration of poets and their craft founded in April 1996 by the Academy of American Poets. Walt Whitman’s Long Island: A Research Guide presents a curated selection of sources for research on the poet’s life and his immense influence on literature, music, and the visual arts with an emphasis on Long Island, New York.
Long Island-born Walt Whitman (b. May 31, 1819 – d. March 26, 1892) was inspired by shorelines and geography throughout his lifetime. Among Whitman’s extensive writings are documentations of excursions walking and sailing across the expanse of Long Island. His travels included time spent in Orient, Montauk, Shelter Island and points in-between New York City.
Whitman’s poem “Paumanok,” titled after an original place name given to Long Island by Native Americans, was first published in the New York Herald on February 29, 1888 and later in the 1891 final edition of Leaves of Grass. He wrote “Paumanok” toward the end of his life and it is a lasting tribute to Long Island.
Sea-beauty! stretch’d and basking!
One side thy inland ocean laving, broad,
with copious commerce, steamers, sails,
And one the Atlantic’s wind caressing, fierce
or gentle – with mighty hulls dark-gliding
in the distance:
Isle of sweet drinking-water – healthy air
and soil! – isle of the earth and brine!
Map of Suffolk County from An Atlas of the State of New York…New York: D. H. Burr, 1829. Special Collections, SBU Libraries.