Karbiener and Whitman

How amazing would it be to spend a summer taking a Walt Whitman poetry class in New York City with a professor who’s both incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about teaching his oeuvre?

Poetry Students Take a Walk in Walt Whitman’s Footsteps (Christian Science Monitor)
Summer Course Explores New York City Through Walt Whitman’s Eyes and Poems (Columbia News)

This experiential class had been offered for several summers by professor Karen Karbiener, who has taught at Colby College, Columbia, and NYU. To have the chance take her class, to stand on the Brooklyn Bridge while listening to her recite and explicate Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” would just be so darn cool! Poetry in its physical context, rather than an abstract one. Doesn’t sound like she offers it anymore, though…unfortunately. (If she still is, please let me know!)

Imagine reading Whitman’s poetry in the very places that inspired it.

I once read that when Jacqueline Bouvier was a teenager, her grandfather advised her to take the great professors at college, even if their subject matter didn’t initially interest her. Their enthusiasm and ability to teach their subject would inspire a love of that subject in her, he assured her. And it’s true. I regret not taking the awesome profs who taught subjects way outside my general-education or major requirements just as much as I wish I hadn’t had to take the initially interesting-sounding classes that fell flat for wont of a capable, dynamic instructor.

Now that I can enroll in whatever class I like without feeling rushed to “get out in four,” it’s exciting to be able to enroll in intriguing classes with great professors through local continuing studies, extension, and community-education programs. I love learning. How could I not take advantage of any chance to take classes for fun and enrichment? I’m just sorry when the cool class (like this Whitman one with Karbiener) gets away.

(Top photo by Robin Michals; bottom photo via Karen Karbiener)

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2 thoughts on “Karbiener and Whitman

  1. …you totally made my day! Thanks for the kind words, whoever you are. You’re heartily welcome to join the class this summer (when I’ll be teaching “Whitman and New York” for the twelfth time at Columbia), for the whole session or even just one of our tours.

    And right back at you: this blog has such a fine touch. Your posts are lawless snowflakes. (that’s Walt)

    • Dr. Karbiener, it’s such a pleasure to hear from you!! Amazing, actually. It’s funny because I first read the Christian Science Monitor story on your Whitman class while I was still serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine, and I remember being so inspired by it that I shared it with Ukrainian friends/colleagues and advanced students in class. Thank you so much for the compliment and the offer of tagging along on one of the tours, which I would *definitely* like to take you up on someday. Cheers!

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