You can't blame the people of Long Island. Until recently, most cultural, literary, and historic landmarks were hard to find. As a reader of blog posts with Whitman in the title you might not believe me, but it seems that more Long Islanders have heard of the Walt Whitman Mall than its namesake.
For the record, Walt Whitman was born on Long Island and the mall came second.
When my children were younger, I would explore the small grounds of his birthplace, have a picnic and visit the museum and interpretive center. So much has changed! The WWBA now offers regular programing and some are over zoom so visits can happen without leaving your house.
I wrote the poem "Concrete Walt" with all of our multitudes in mind. In the spirit of Whitman, I imagined the Indigenous Long Islanders, the sailors and farmers, shoppers at the mall across the street, bugs and birds hiding in trees, the pollution below. All of it.
The land where the mall sits was once owned by the Whitmans. Before that, indigenous people lived and worked all over Paumanok. Before that, the glaciers shaped the North Shore of Long Island. Then they stopped, spilling that sand that made this Island.
Long Island is earthy and ugly and gorgeous and complicated. It contains multitudes.
SIT: Follow the "multitudes." Sit quietly for 5-20 minutes and repeat the words, "I am." Say the word "I" on and inhale. Say the word, "am" on the exhale. This is a very powerful mantra to use because it connects with your being as a part of all that is.
WRITE: Write what you see from where you sit. Follow the thread of the multitudes. Write about the juxtaposition of all that exists today, and in the past, in a place that matters to you.
MOVE: Seated Figure Four. Sit outside on the lawn or if not possible, you can sit in a chair. Keep your legs extended in front of you. Cross your right ankle over your left knee, keeping your right foot flexed. Place your hands on the ground (or chair) behind you for support. Inhale and lift your chest, then exhale and hinge forward from your hips (go slow, maybe even move forward just an inch because you will feel it!). Keep your spine long. Hold for several breaths, then release and repeat on the other side. This is a wonderful stretch and keeps you grounded. If you sit a lot (and as writers we sit a lot!) this is a very useful pose.
Video by Heather Famiglietti taken at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, March 2023.
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