Loading ...

Poetry Militant: Walt Whitman and Bernard O’Dowd

a radio feature produced by Lyn Gallacher

One of the most treasured objects in the State Library of Victoria is the Whitman Cabinet, a special box, purpose built by the Australian man of letters Bernard O’Dowd to house his personal correspondence with Walt Whitman. Today we take a peek inside that cabinet.


Walt Whitman is widely known as the author of Leaves of Grass, an epic poem that has provided inspiration for generations of Americans. On the other side of the globe Bernard O’Dowd is best known for Poetry Militant – his idea that the true power of poetry lies in the revolutionary functions of democracy … because aren’t we all treading on the same leaves of grass?


Bernard O’Dowd’s first fan letter to Whitman not only sparked a friendship, it also gave birth to a whole community of Australian Walt enthusiasts, most of them being Bernard’s close personal friends. In this program you’ll get to know Fred, Ada, Tom Touchstone, Ted, Eve, Jim and lastly little Eric Whitman O’Dowd. You’ll also hear how the lives of these two poets unfold alongside each other. Both men are trying to find a new voice for a new nation, but one is at the end of his creative endeavour, and the other is young, still straining to make his mark. It is a remarkable and influential friendship.

Listen to the program here …

HindsightPoetry Militant: Walt Whitman and Bernard O'Dowd



Sandra Burt


Martin O’Dowd


Frank Bongiorno


Janet Woolhouse





Lyn Gallacher, Producer


Angela Grant, Sound Engineer




© 2012—Lyn Gallacher & ABC RN

Filed under: radio features, works