Imagine that Adam and Eve must have been extraordinary poets. Their original and pure language of nature was undisturbed by custom and the past. When they spoke and named animals and plants for the first time, they brought those things into a living intimacy with their own lives, and the language they used reflected their own history and place within the created world they had been gifted by a loving Father. So their language was purely theirs, not borrowed, born in their immediate contact with creation, distilled upon their minds from original contact with the dynamic, living, and breathing world around them. That, in my mind, and in the mind of most poets, has all the makings of great poetry. Walt Whitman would seem to agree when he wrote these words from his famous poem, “Song of Myself”:
Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy (25).
Whitman’s goal was to find an original poetic voice for the Americas, a voice of democracy that expressed the unique qualities of our New World history and environment. He wanted to cast aside the burdens of “creeds and schools” of thought inherited from our European past and come into direct contact with Nature in order to found a new Adamic language of American possibility; his poems were a return to innocence, poems of praise “To the Garden of the World,” as one of his poems states. His influence on generations of poets after him in the United States is well known. What is not so well known is the enormous influence he has had throughout all of the Americas, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean.
What do your harried scintillations whisper?
Did your sly, rebellious flash
go travelling once,
populous with words?