Each page of the annual calendar published by RAND Corporation features a quotation, contemporary and historical, representing almost every field of endeavor: politics, literature, science, religion, education, business and the arts. My favorite selection, by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, appeared in September 1992. It remains the most magnificent tribute to words I’ve ever read or heard:
The first poems I knew were nursery rhymes, and before I could read them for myself I had come to love just the words of them, the words alone…I did not care what the words said, overmuch, nor what happened to Jack and Jill and the Mother Goose rest of them; I cared for the shapes of sound that their names, and the words describing their actions, made in my ears; I cared for the colors the words cast on my eyes…I fell in love—that is the only expression I can think of—at once, and am still at the mercy of words, though sometimes now, knowing a little of their behavior very well, I think I can influence them slightly and have even learned to beat them now and then, which they appear to enjoy.
My love for the real life of words increased until I knew that I must live with them and in them, always. I knew, in fact, that I must be a writer of words, and nothing else.
I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on in the world between the covers of books…so many blinding lights…splashing across the pages in a million bits and pieces all of which were words, words, words, and each of which was alive forever in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.
One reason this captivated me is that it describes my own love affair with words, begun as a little child at my mother’s knee. It’s a love affair that continues to this day.