Discuss Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham, and portraits of Walt Whitman, with staff of the National Portrait Gallery and the DC Public Library. In each section of Michael Cunningham’s bold novel, we encounter the same group of characters: a young boy, an older man, and a young woman. Presiding over each episode of this interrelated whole is the prophetic figure of the poet Walt Whitman, who promised his future readers, “It avails not, neither time or place . . . I am with you, and know how it is.” Specimen Days is a genre-bending, haunting, and transformative ode to life in our greatest city and a meditation on the direction and meaning of America’s destiny.
This is part of the multi-venue, 12-day Walt Whitman 200 Festival, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of America’s most significant and enduring poets, who was a resident of Washington, DC for ten years during and after the Civil War.