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5

TUESDAY

“O Captain! My captain! I celebrate myself, and sing myself—YAWP!” Well, close enough. I haven’t read a line of Walt Whitman’s poetry since college. Yet the fact that quotes from his work come readily to mind indicates an attribute that made the American writer truly great: shameless self-promotion. Whitman’s first edition of Leaves of Grass, with poems exploring such bold themes as freedom, love, and democracy, was self-published. The etched frontispiece depicted Whitman as the Romantic Everyman in rough workman’s clothes. “An American Bard at Last!” marveled a review in a New York newspaper, penned anonymously by the poet himself. Never satisfied, Whitman developed eight subsequent editions, adding new poems, reworking old ones, and futzing with the typography and graphics of each. Prior to his death in 1892, Whitman was photographed in a rocking chair amid a nest of papers and manuscripts. Ever the Romantic, he looks the nurturing grandfather of America, championing personal expression and social equality—ideals we still strive to uphold. Celebrate Whitman’s marketing skills at “Revising Himself: Walt Whitman and Leaves of Grass,” on view from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (to Dec. 3; see City List for other museum times) at the Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave. SE. Free. (202) 707-4604.