“Almost all poetry is a failure,” Charles Bukowski is said to have contended, “because it sounds like somebody saying, Look, I have written a poem.”
Never will I allude to the English Language or tongue without exultation. This is the tongue that spurns laws, as the greatest tongue must. It is the most capacious vital tongue of all, — full of ease, definiteness, and power, — full of sustenance, — an enormous treasure house, or ranges of treasure houses, arsenals, granary, chock full of so many contributions from the north and from the south, from Scandinavia, from Greece and Rome—from Spaniards, Italians, and the French—that its own sturdy home-dated Angles-bred words have long been outnumbered by the foreigners whom they lead—which is all good enough, and indeed must be. America owes immeasurable respect and love to the past, and to many ancestries, for many inheritances, — but of all that America has received from the past from the mothers and fathers of laws, arts, letters, etc., by far the greatest inheritance is the English Language—so long in growing—so fitted.
Dwight Garner quotes Bukowski and cites with link the Whitman essay (The Atlantic, April 1904) in his article “Dwight Garner Shares From His Stash of Other Writers’ Words” (NYTimes, 11-1-20).
(c) 2020 JMN