Because of the President's Day snowstorm, Frostburg State University has rescheduled the premiere of "The Good, Gray Poet: A Reading by Walt Whitman," a one-man show created and performed by FSU English professor Dr. Keith W. Schlegel, to Sunday, March 2, at 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center F. Perry Smith Studio Theatre. The presentation is free and open to the public.
Schlegel's monologue is a historical characterization of America's most well-known poet as he might have appeared to the public during America's Centennial. Following the monologue, "Walt Whitman" will respond to questions from the audience. After that, Schlegel will step out of the Whitman character to respond to further questions. FSU English professor Dennis Gartner will moderate.
In 1857, Whitman outlined to himself his plans to become a "wander-speaker" as a means to "hold the ear of the people." He lamented late in his life, "The people, the crowd - I have had no way of reaching them. I have sometimes thought of going out and around and reading my poems: I felt that the people would listen - and would get to know what I am about." However, the lack of a critical audience and ill health prevented that.
Although Whitman did speak publicly in the 1870s and '80s, he did so not to read his most significant poetry, but to commemorate the life of Abraham Lincoln and to read his most popular, if least characteristic, poem, "O Captain, My Captain." In these well-attended events, Whitman was fully the "Good, Gray Poet," with little of the original American rebel evident. The moment to appeal directly to the public in his initial form had passed.
Schlegel, who is chair of the FSU Department of English, has taught at Frostburg since 1971. His dissertation is on Whitman's great dejection ode, "As I Ebb'd with the Ocean of Life." Researching and scripting "The Good, Gray Poet" was the major project of his fall 2002 sabbatical.
For more information, contact the Department of English at (301) 687-4221. FSU is committed to making all of its programs, services and activities accessible to persons with disabilities. To request accommodations through the ADA Compliance Office, call (301) 687-4102, TDD (301) 687-7955.
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