Poet Arrest Update/Whitman Artefacts to be Displayed – Poetry News Roundup March 1st

Our final poetry news round-up of the week – and our first of March – takes a look at the story of the British-Somalilander poet who had been arrested for a public poetry recital. We also take a look at the collection of Walt Whitman artefacts that will be on display to the public shortly in Bolton.

Poet Released from Prison

Last month we brought you an article about the British-Somalilander poet who had been arrested for a public poetry reading. Abdirahman Abees has now been released after being held for six weeks.

He was found to be not guilty of the crime which he was accused of “insulting the police and the government” a crime he was alleged to have committed during a poetry reading that took place in January. He has now been released.

Walt Whitman Artefacts to go on Display

Bolton Museum is home to one of the worlds most extensive collections of artefacts relating to Walt Whitman, arguably one of the greatest American poets.

Over the years American scholars have been visiting the museum in droves, now the general public will also get a chance to view the rather extensive collection thanks to an exhibition that will be opening shortly. 15th March marks the poets 200th anniversary, and this is the date that has been chosen. 

The collection owes much to a group of 19th-century townsfolk. A group of Whitman admirers headed by James Wallace and John Johnson created a friendship with the poet after they sent him a birthday message in 1897, the friendship grew, and they even exchanged visits. Many of the poet’s personal belongings were gifted to the group as a direct result of the friendship. It is these items that can now be found in the museum.

Possibly the most unusual item of memorabilia in the museum associated with Whitman is a stuffed canary. The poet wrote about the canary in “My Canary Bird”. Johnson remarked on the bird in 1890 when he visited Whitman, it died shortly after his visit and was stuffed. It was then delivered to Bolton together with an autographed copy of the lines from the poem. The canary was a favourite pet of Whitman’s so was seen as a great honour by the group.

Another artefact in the museum if the Loving Cup that was presented in 1894 to the Bolton Whitman Fellowship. The cup formed an essential part of the annual Whitman Days when the group would celebrate the poet’s birthday with a trip to the moors located above Bolton. During the trip, they would recite his poems, picnic and raise a glass to Whitman using the cup. The tradition died out but as resurrected in the 1980s when the same cup was once again taken onto the moors.

A decision was made however that due to the fragility of the cup and its historic value it should be placed in the museum for posterity and a replica made. This has been used ever since.

Although Whitman received a great deal of adulation during his lifetime from fellow intellectuals, he had a profound and lasting respect from these groups of people from Bolton

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