Working on your own utterances at great intervals


I am still hard at work editing and translating material that I wrote years ago – in some cases as much as twenty years ago. Some of the material has never seen the outside of a notebook; in other cases the text has already been published in Afrikaans, but as part of the translation process I can’t help revising it, again, for the umpteenth time.

It was therefore a pleasant surprise when I read this afternoon about the American poet Walt Whitman. The first edition of his collection of poetry, Leaves of Grass, was published in 1855, but over the following decades he continued reviewing the material and rewriting parts of it.

Then, in January 1892, two months before his death, he put a notice in the New York Herald: “Walt Whitman wishes respectfully to notify the public that the book Leaves of Grass, which he has been working on at great intervals and partially issued for the past thirty-five or forty years, is now completed, so to call it, and he would like this new 1892 edition to absolutely supersede all previous ones. Faulty as it is, he decides it as by far his special and entire self-chosen poetic utterance.”

Follow these links for more on Walt Whitman and his poetry:

Walt Whitman, 1887