On this day in 1865 slavery in the United States was formally abolished when the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. With this in mind, today’s poem in our Poetree Calendar is an excerpt from I Sing the Body Electric by Walt Whitman.
The illustrated excerpt above comes from an anthology specially edited (by a Whitman expert, Karen Karbiener) for children and young people, Poetry for Kids: Walt Whitman, illustrated by Kate Evans (@kateevansartist).
Thirty-five of Whitman’s works, including excerpts from “Song of Myself”, “O Captain! My Captain!”, and poems from Leaves of Grass are grouped together to highlight different aspects of Whitman’s life and works. As well as some of Whitman’s earliest works and inspirations there’s a selection of Whitman’s Civil War inspired poetry and also poems from the last years of his life.
The book’s back matter includes a short commentary on each poem and some of the more challenging vocabulary (such as rushbottoming and athwart) is defined in the margins of each poem. Any sense of this being a school text is swept away by the fact that all the poems are richly illustrated, enabling young readers, for whom Whitman’s poems might be something of a challenge, to find alternative ways into the poetry’s beauty. Evans’ tones and scenes are at time reminiscent of some of Jon Klassen’s more lyrical work.