Bill Murray Leads Poets Across the Brooklyn Bridge

When Walt Whitman wrote “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” in 1856, he probably did not have in mind a bumbling parapsychologist in a khaki flight suit. But that didn’t stop legendary comic and erstwhile Ghostbuster Billy Murray from leading the charge last week at the 20th annual Poets House Brooklyn Bridge Poetry Walk.

Each year, tri-state area Whitmanites trek across the 5,989 foot long bridge; at the end of their journey they recite the poem, which, in nine exuberant stanzas, describes the ferry ride that once spanned the Manhattan-Brooklyn divide, today traversed by the Brooklyn Bridge.

Flow on, river! flow with the flood-tide, and ebb with the ebb-tide!
Frolic on, crested and scallop-edg’d waves!

Murray is a self-professed poetry lover, and has put in appearances at several Poets House events (in 2009 he gave the first ever reading at the nonprofit’s headquarters). He said of the Whitman poem, “It’s beautiful to read with all of it happening right in front of your eyes.”

The event, capped off by a celebratory dinner in DUMBO, also featured readings by Mark Doty, Thomas Lux, Vijay Seshadri, and high schooler Anita Norman, winner of the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest.

Here’s hoping the event is reprised as many times as February 2 in Groundhog Day.*

*According to one intrepid tallier, approximately 12,395 times.

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