Dear John Neihardt,

What shall I say? What are the words? The vocabulary of gratitude has become tired and insipid. But you know. That is enough.

I said long ago that you are the greatest poet in our land. I said it in public print. I have read a CYCLE OF THE WEST many times -- often in the dead of night, being a bad sleeper -- and I repeat that you are the only Homeric singer of the American song; that neither Poe nor Whitman nor anybody else can even remotely touch your unique splendor. After all, Whitman, for all his hairy chest-thumping, was no epic poet; he was infatuated with himself. In all candor -- and, this side idolatry, I loved and admired Steve Benet, person and poet and story-teller, as much as any man -- I must confess that his most celebrated poem, JOHN BROWN'S BODY, leaves me quite cold. I smell in it a sense of something hortatory, something contrived and manufactured. He simply lacked the lung power.

It's a funny thing, but I noted that you sent me your generously inscribed book in a wrapper from THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ARTS AND LETTERS. What's funny is this: that, although my dossier is decent, I've never been invited to join.

Finally, let me tell you that your dedication to HILDA made me weep. Greek is one of my few accomplishments. I am sick and old and lonely.

Bless you, John, and thank you again for being the man and the poet you are.