Poetry Reading: Lawrence Kramer reads selections from Walt Whitman's "Drum-Taps"

Event date: 
Wednesday, August 5, 2015 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
6422 Montgomery Street
Rhinebeck, NY 12572

This event will be held at Oblong Books & Music, 6422 Montgomery St., Rhinebeck, NY.

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Released to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War and National Poetry Month, Drum-Taps—one of the most enduring Civil War literary work based on first-hand experience—is both a brilliant collection of poetry and a haunting testament to the war’s emotional complexity and lingering aftereffects.

Whitman published the completed version of Drum-Taps, a poetic tribute to the tragedy and anguish of the war. Inspired by his experience working as a nurse around Washington, D. C., Whitman wrote to a friend that the collection was “put together by fits and starts, on the field, in hospitals as [he] worked with the soldier boys.” The collection was later dissembled and certain poems were worked into his later Leaves of Grass, but their heightened emotional context was lost. 150 years later, Drum-Taps is now available again in its unexpurgated original form, complete with annotations and an introduction by  Lawrence Kramer that elucidate its context and relevancy for contemporary readers.

The poems of Drum-Taps are charged with emotion, but unlike Whitman’s other poetry, they are often spoken in other voices: those of a father, a soldier, a child—even a banner and a pennant, personified. The collection also includes such iconic poems as “Oh Captain! My Captain!,” “Come up from the fields, father,” “The Dresser,” “When I heard the learn’d Astronomer,” “By the bivouac’s fitful flame,” and Whitman’s grief-stricken elegy to Abraham Lincoln, “When Lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d.” As a coherent whole, they form what Kramer terms a “poetic monument” to the Civil War, as well as Whitman’s own conflicted interpretation of this defining piece of American history. “Whitman’s battle-pieces may admire and sympathize,” Kramer writes in his introduction, “but they do not glorify, they do not idealize, and they do not make up heroes.”

Lawrence Kramer is a musicologist and composer and a professor at Fordham University. He has been the editor of the journal 19th-Century Music since 1993 and has written more than ten books on music, most recently Expression and Truth: On the Music of Knowledge. He lives in Rhinebeck.

Drum-Taps: The Complete 1865 Edition (NYRB Poets) By Walt Whitman, Lawrence Kramer (Editor) Cover Image
This item is not currently available to order.
ISBN: 9781590178621
Published: NYRB Poets - April 7th, 2015