Who Owns Language?

In the course I am taking on Modern Poetry, someone posed the above question. The question arose because of the section on the “Language Poets” (yes, I know, EVERYONE’S first reaction is, “as if there were non language poets?”) but it applies to anyone who ever tried to organize a thought and communicate that thought to someone else:

In my never very subtle nor humble opinion, language comes from the dirt of the fields, which is nothing more than the dung of a billions years of beasts trodding and defecating upon layers of other animals and plants waste of eons. we take the “crap” of the past, compress it and form marble and granite and concrete, and build mansions and countertops and cook and serve gourmet food that we in turn will excrete and dispose of as nothing, and yet in a billion years some replacement for the human race will dig up out of a few tons of other such waste and call it a treasure.

Was not Shakespeare a Stephen King, no, a Danielle Steele, of his day, a pop star, a Miley Cyrus? yet, as 400 years roll around, we take him as the master of “our” language, sneering at the hip hop, at the drunkened high school drop out, slurring his words over snuff. is but ours a more aged bit of crap dug up from the lips of a dead man, or even dissected from his bowels? language is the property not only of the speaker but the hearer, the reader, the knower, for a language is born dead if it is not derived by a need to communicate a thought from one to another.

I can say “potato” and mean the Atlantic Ocean, but unless there is a way, a reason for my reader to understand that a subterranean blob of starch is the equivalent of a pretty big stretch of salt water, then I have not used language, only a distraction. I have not owned a piece of language, I have only passed gas and thought I created a granite countertop.


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