In 1865, in Washington DC, Peter Doyle was conducting a bus in Washington DC.
He was 19, maybe from Dublin (but I need to check that out). Walt Whitman was a ‘passenger’ on his bus, and, in either 1865 or ‘66, they began a relationship which lasted at least 20 years.
Whitman died on 23 March 1892. He’d gone from being regarded as weird and a threat to civilized life to being honoured as America’s finest poet during his lifetime.
When Doyle met him, Whitman was working as a volunteer hospital nurse and had just published “Drum Taps“(1865), a collection of 43 poems in response to the American Civil War. He was still grieving the death of Abraham Lincoln, who was assassinated on 15 April 1865.
A 19 year old immigrant bus conductor meets a 47 (or 46) year old poet.
The Connection to Me:
In the Autumn of 1997, I wrote “Beware 47 year old men” (subsequently self-published in “Vital Poems“). Around that time I met Marcus Moore. Marcus is the most brilliantly talented compere of poetry Slams. He hosts the UK National Poetry Slam Championship with Sarah Jane Arbury, at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. I’ll never forget my first telephone conversation with Marcus: it fairly fizzled. The man inspires me. And I’m sad that we have lost touch with each other. We were two 47 year old men when we first met.
All of this is by way of explanation for why I need to do some research. “Supermarket in California” by Alan Ginsberg, “Dead Poets Society” and another (1974) film “Beautiful Dreamers” - all waiting for attention.
The project is to bring Peter Doyle back to life, as a vehicle for showing off Walt Whitman, and for displaying the second half of nineteenth century America (”… America’s busy, teeming, intricate whirl…” - as Whitman called it in “Eidolons“) .
Surprise, surprise… Oscar Wilde pops up because he visited Whitman in 1882 and said that his mother had read some of Whitman’s poems to him as a child.
Blogging my way forward:
One of the beauties of blogging is that it’s a convenient way to record the story of creative development. I could use this blog as a place to record and report on progress, on twists and turns, and maybe even ‘Demascus’ experiences.
If there is anyone out there reading this who has any relevant knowledge or inspiration, I would be thrilled to hear from you, publicly or privately.