Second Read is a BPL Presents series that reevaluates canonical classic and contemporary work and encourages lively debate around books and reading. This Second Read and other events during the weekend are co-presented with Poetry Society of America.

Self-published to mixed reviews, Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass was edited throughout the poets' life and is considered by many today to be an American masterpiece. Our panel (poets Rigoberto GonzálezHarmony Holiday, scholar Karen Karbiener and poet Timothy Liu) will engage in a critical debate, considering the merits of the long, inclusive text and the parts and poems worth quibbling over, not to mention the context out of which the work emerged. 

Rigoberto González is the author of five books of poetry, most recently The Book of Ruin, published by Four Way Books. His twelve books of prose includes the memoir What Drowns the Flowers in Your Mouth, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. The recipient of Guggenheim, NEA and USA Rolón fellowships, a NYFA grant, the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets, the Lambda Literary Award, the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, and The Poetry Center Book Award, he is currently professor of English and director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Rutgers-Newark, the State University of New Jersey.  

Harmony Holiday is a writer, dancer, archivist, director, and the author of four collections of poetry, Negro League Baseball, Go Find Your Father/ A Famous Blues, Hollywood Forever, and A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom. She founded and runs Afrosonics, an archive of jazz and everyday diaspora poetics and Mythscience, a publishing imprint that reissues and reprints work from the archive. 

Karen Karbiener is a Whitman scholar and teaches at New York University. Winner of the Kluge Fellowship at the Library of Congress and a Fulbright recipient, she has published widely on Whitman, including an edition of Leaves of Grass, two audiobooks on Whitman’s life and influence, a children’s book, and collaborated with illustrator Brian Selznick on Live Oak, with Moss, a new edition of Whitman’s secret same-sex love poems. She is the co-curator with collector Susan Tane of Poet of the Body: New York’s Walt Whitman, a major exhibition at the Grolier Club that will open on May 15, and the author of a forthcoming book of the same title. Karbiener is the president and founding member of the Walt Whitman Initiative, a 501c3 nonprofit organization serving as an organizing center for cultural activism and poetry-related events. 

Timothy Liu’s latest book, Luminous Debris: New & Selected Legerdemain (1992-2017), is a finalist for Publishing Triangle’s Thom Gunn Award. His poems have been translated into twelve languages, and his journals and papers are archived in the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library. A reader of occult esoterica, he lives in Manhattan and Woodstock, NY.

Past Second Read panels have considered William Golding's Lord of the Flies, Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Alice Walker's The Color Purple.

Whitman at 200 is made possible with generous support from the Poetry Foundation.

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