Brooklyn Heights/ DUMBO

Whitman, BK and the Beats: all you ever needed to know


More than a hundred years before Biggie Smalls graced the Brooklyn streets with his lyrics, another BK bard captured the hearts and souls of his contemporaries: the granddaddy of original poetic gangsterness, Walt Whitman. You know, of Leaves of Grass fame: “I SING the Body electric; The armies of those I love engirth me, and I engirth them.” To celebrate Whitman’s place in Brooklyn history, and his influence on the Beat generation (it apparently was quite an influence), St. Francis College is hosting a free weekend of events on Whitman and the Beats. Saturday, Mar. 27, will feature a full-on, open-to-the-public academic conference, followed by a Whitman-inspired chamber-music concert and cocktail reception. Sunday will be for two walking tours: “Whitman’s Brooklyn” at noon, and “The Beats in Greenwich Village” at 2:30.

The conference, held at St. Francis in Brooklyn Heights (180 Remsen St.) will include juicy Whitman/Beat-related topics like “sexual identity,” “time and space” and “embattled bodies.” There’s even one paper entitled: “Whitmanic Anarchism, Eroticism, and the Beats’ Opposition to the Cold War State.” Says the conference’s co-chairman, St. Francis professor Scott Weiss: “Our panelists will explore, in depth, how the legacy of the Beats, their perspectives of their era and artistic innovations can be traced to Whitman’s influence on American literary culture.”

The academic sessions, with lunch, run from 9 to 5:30 on Saturday; The concert’s at 6 p.m., cocktail reception’s at 7. For complete info, check out this blog of (we kid you not) co-chair, Prof. John Lennon.

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