Yawping About Everything But: Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”

Walt Whitman is an American icon who loved the places he lived.  “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” shows his admiration for one of those places, Brooklyn.  It also reveals his ideas on the nature of humans living in cities and individuals among the crowds.

In the beginning of the poem in particular, the speaker notes how people disappear among the might infrastructure.  Architecture overshadows all elements of humanness.  He says, “myself disintegrated, everyone disintegrated yet part of the scheme.”  Though people are not in sight, they have to be there, somewhere, lurking, working, living.  If not for people, cities, buildings, bridges, would not exist.

This line reflects the images in Alfred Stieglitz’s photography.  “The City Of Ambition,” “The City Across The River,” and “Lower Manhattan” show a certain awe of the immensity of the city.  No people are present per se; the sign of humans there is the boats, the smoke, signifying that something is moving below the surface.

The City Of Ambition


The City Across The River

Lower Manhattan

In these photos and in Whitman’s poem, people are the pulse of the city, and the city itself is one living entity.


About Christina M. Rau

Poet, blogger, writer, editor, professor
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