UI launches Whitman Web project

The University of Iowa’s International Writing Program (IWP) has launched Whitman Web, an innovative web gallery that, over the course of the next year, will publish Walt Whitman’s most celebrated poem, “Song of Myself,” in 52 weekly installments. Each installment will present one section of the 52-part poem in English alongside translations in eight other languages — Chinese, French, German, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Ukrainian — including the first-ever translation into Persian, accompanied by photographs, commentary, discussion questions and recordings.

“Whitman’s idea of a modern self, expansive, and capacious, has attracted readers from surprisingly many different languages and literary cultures,” said editor Natasa Durovicova, who oversaw the design and coordination of the gallery. “Song of Myself is challenging to translate because it is a vernacular poem, its language both colloquial and exalted; it speaks to so many people because the first-person-singular voice bursting forth is so imaginative and cerebral yet also coming out of a tangible, material body and the physical world it inhabits. This is poetry one can’t resist reading out loud.”

Each installment of the poem will be accompanied by commentaries from distinguished Whitman scholar and University of Iowa professor Ed Folsom, who co-directs the Walt Whitman Archive, and Merrill, who is a poet, writer, and translator in addition to leading theIWP. These commentaries, designed to orient, inspire, and challenge readers, will be translated into Persian and Russian, with translations into Chinese and other languages forthcoming.

Whitman Web plans to enhance the website further with additional translations of the poem and commentaries as they become available. Readers will also be able to listen to a new section of the poem read aloud each week in English by UI professor of acting Eric Forsythe, and in Persian by the poem’s co-translator, Iran-born Los-Angeles-based poet Sholeh Wolpe. Photographs from the vast Walt Whitman Archive will trace Whitman through his adulthood so that, by the end of the poem, readers will see him in old age. Weekly discussion questions will be distributed via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks.

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.