BBC Radio 4, 5 July 2009
This documentary presented by Stuart Maconie focused on an annual ritual
in Bolton where a group of aficionados, poets and visitors from America embark on a walk around the Lancashire moors, reading
Walt Whitman's poetry and celebrating his socialist ideals. Whitman never visited the city, but he recognized its contribution
to the socialist cause by sending a live canary in a cage. The bird was stuffed following its death, and now occupies pride
of place in the Whitman Collection at Bolton Museum, the largest archive outside the United States.
Walt Whitman in Bolton celebrated the poet's skills as a versifier, as well
as his ability to unite listeners through his work. The programme also celebrated British eccentricity - that spirit bringing
people from diverse backgrounds together one weekend afternoon to walk three miles, listening to and reading poetry, and finishing
the day with tea and scones in a local teashop. It is a critical archaism these days to describe literature as universal;
opinions now direct us towards looking at texts in their socio-cultural context, and how meanings change over time. Whitman
in Bolton showed how poetry brought people from different cultures together in a celebration of community spirit, while
revealing the universality of his work. The producer was Russell Crewe.