I'm writing from JFK, sitting at the gate at the Jet Blue terminal waiting for my plane to Ft Lauderdale. I spent all yesterday at Rutgers in New Brunswick, giving a talk on Whitman, meeting lots of students and faculty, and generally having a fine time. My talk was called "Whitman in Tears," and the amazing graphics people at Rutgers had made one of the best posters ever: an image of Whitman in his guise as the "Good Gray Poet," long beard, long hair, crumpled wayfarer hat, crinkled eyes gazing directly at the viewer. It's a beautiful, complex image, and they'd printed it large, on a sepia field, with the title of the talk in cursive beneath the beard and then a smaller picture of yours truly off to the right. My head and Whitman's are tilted so that we seem to be giving each other the eye. The poster was everywhere, and in the room where I gave the talk, a whole bank of Walt Whitmans stood behind me -- consoling, challenging, full of presence. It felt a little like the startling passage in "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" when Whitman says to his readers that he's thought of us "long and hard" before we were born, that he is speaking directly to us know. "How do you know," writes, "but that I am enjoying this?"
And now I am going to Florida. Warmth and moist air sound like heaven, though in truth it was a pretty nice morning in New Jersey.