At the time of his death in 1962, E. E. Cummings was, next to Robert Frost, the most widely read poet in America. Combining Thoreau's controlled belligerence with the brash abandon of an uninhibited bohemian, Cummings, together with Pound, Eliot, and William Carlos Williams, helped bring about the twentieth-century revolution in literary expression. He is recognized on the one hand as the author of some of the most beautiful lyric poems written in the English language, and on the other as one of the most inventive American poets of his time in the worlds of Richard Kostelanetz, "the major American poet of the middle-twentieth-century."
Edward Estlin Cummings was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on October 14, 1894. He began writing poems as early as 1904 and studied Latin and Greek at the Cambridge Latin High School.
He received his BA in 1915 and his MA in 1916, both from Harvard University. His studies there introduced him to the poetry of avant-garde writers, such as Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound.
In 1917, Cummings published an early selection of poems in the anthology Eight Harvard Poets. The same year, Cummings left the United States for France as a volunteer ambulance driver in World War I. Five months after his assignment, however, he and a friend were interned in a prison camp by the French authorities on suspicion of espionage (an experience recounted in his novel, The Enormous Room) for his outspoken anti-war convictions.
After the war, he settled into a life divided between houses in rural Connecticut and Greenwich Village, with frequent visits to Paris. He also traveled throughout Europe, meeting poets and artists, including Pablo Picasso, whose work he particularly admired.
In 1920, The Dial published seven poems by Cummings, including "Buffalo Bill ’s.” Serving as Cummings’ debut to a wider American audience, these “experiments” foreshadowed the synthetic cubist strategy Cummings would explore in the next few years.
In his work, Cummings experimented radically with form, punctuation, spelling, and syntax, abandoning traditional techniques and structures to create a new, highly idiosyncratic means of poetic expression. Later in his career, he was often criticized for settling into his signature style and not pressing his work toward further evolution. Nevertheless, he attained great popularity, especially among young readers, for the simplicity of his language, his playful mode and his attention to subjects such as war and sex.
The poet and critic Randall Jarrell once noted that Cummings is “one of the most individual poets who ever lived—and, though it sometimes seems so, it is not just his vices and exaggerations, the defects of his qualities, that make a writer popular. But, primarily, Mr. Cummings’s poems are loved because they are full of sentimentally, of sex, of more or less improper jokes, of elementary lyric insistence.”
During his lifetime, Cummings received a number of honors, including an Academy of American Poets Fellowship, two Guggenheim Fellowships, the Charles Eliot Norton Professorship at Harvard, the Bollingen Prize in Poetry in 1958, and a Ford Foundation grant.
At the time of his death, September 3, 1962, he was the second most widely read poet in the United States, after Robert Frost. He is buried in Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston, Massachusetts.
A friend of mine called me today to ask me to send him an e e cummings poem I used to have on my wall at work when I worked with him – oh, a decade ago. Neither of us thought it would be necessary for him to tell me which one, and so I sent him this one:
somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond any experience, your eyes have their silence: in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me, or which i cannot touch because they are too near
your slightest look will easily unclose me though i have closed myself as fingers, you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens (touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose
or if your wish be to close me, i and my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly, as when the heart of this flower imagines the snow carefully everywhere descending; nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals the power of your intense fragility: whose texture compels me with the color of its countries, rendering death and forever with each breathing
(i do not know what it is about you that closes and opens; only something in me understands the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses) nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
It seemed the only reasonable assumption to make. But he told me that wasn’t the right one, so I sent him this one:
"next to of course god america i love you land of the pilgrims' and so forth oh say can you see by the dawn's early my country 'tis of centuries come and go and are no more what of it we should worry in every language even deafanddumb thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry by jingo by gee by gosh by gum why talk of beauty what could be more beaut- iful than these heroic happy dead who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter they did not stop to think they died instead then shall the voice of liberty be mute?"
He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water
God, I love that poem.
I knew this wasn’t it either, as he had already told me the poem he was after compared how easy it is to plant a bomb to how hard it is to write a poem. I can’t for the life of me remember the poem – not even assuming he got the poet wrong.
Anyway – all this has meant that the first of these two poems has been bouncing around in my head all day. So, there is only one thing for it, I guess.
There is a scene in Woody Allen Hannah and Her Sisters (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieoFku...) where Michael Caine gets an American actress to read this poem and there-after has sex with her. In my fictional world the necessary consequence of giving a women a beautiful poem is that she has to have sex with you virtually immediately afterwards. In much the same way that killing a dragon in a fairy tale leads in the same direction– the difference being only that sex is merely assumed in fairy tales. In fact, the giving of poetry to women and its relation to sex is perhaps as good a definition of the difference between life and fiction as I can think of.
I’ve always loved the small hands and their opening and closing – but I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about this poem as one ought to think about poems, about what this poem might mean. And I’ve read it many, many times before. But then, it got Michael Caine into your woman’s knickers, so it must be about love, right?
It was only today when I was trying to remember what the poem was called that I really started to think about the meaning of the poem. I googled “noboby, not even the rain, has such small hands” and that did the trick – but when the first line came up I was taken aback.
‘somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond any experience’
You know, we’re talking death here. That is the only place that is gladly beyond any experience. And what are the things you ‘cannot touch because they are too near’? Yeah, things so deep inside your self they are beyond close.
This is a strikingly interesting poem, much more interesting than I’ve ever really thought before. It reminds me of that essay by Montaigne that says that to truly live we must face down death every day. Otherwise we spend our lives running in fear of something so big it exhausts us. Otherwise we can’t really understand life.
Like the Persephone myth – in life there is death and in our life we need to return to the underworld for there to be any hope of another Spring.
Is it any wonder that ‘Spring’ is the only word in the poem with a capital letter, not even ‘I’ gets that honour.
It is this ‘death in life’ hybrid that is being spoken of, I think, where cummings refers to you in the poem. And it is this hybrid which has such an awe-inspiring power over us. In fact, it is a knowledge of the fragility of life – the tenuous balance of every breath in us that places us between being alive and dead – that gives life its power. A power as great as that of countries and worlds and all other great and temporary things that gain their beauty and their vivacity from the fact of their likewise momentary existence, from the fact that their being is illuminated by the equal certainty of their one day not being.
Perhaps Allen is right to have your woman drop her knickers, even if I suspect she does this from thinking the ‘you’ in the poem is supposed to refer to her. Even if she had realised the ‘you’ wasn’t a person, but rather a personification of life and death – sex still is probably as good a response as any other.
Poetry, too, has small hands – you never can tell just when they are going to unclose themselves for you. The gifts poems hold are as close to being beyond our experience as we are capable of, I suspect.
Dear Edward, In the rain-darkness, the sunset being sheathed, i sit and think of you. You may find this peculiar, that I think of you, without knowing you, but it's true. And, though i am a little church (no great cathedral), I'd have made my love known to you, if ever we'd have had the serendipity of occupying the same space. In fact, my dear, I'm quite certain I'd have stalked you. I can not help myself, you poser of clumsy. You, with your fancy words pressed into peasant's pants, to disguise your genius. I see you. I have always seen your truth.
My dear, my love is building a building around you. . . my love is building a magic, a discrete tower of magic, where I can still conjure your image, bring you back, after I have summoned your little voice with your own delicious words. Sir, I can not begin to count the poetry and prose your verse has provoked from me, how much credit I lay humbly at your feet. Thou shall not worship false idols, or so they say, but, oh, sweet Edward, you do give me the shakes.
Over time and tide and death, you have maintained my ardor. Love, i slowly gather of thy languorous mouth the thrilling flower. Yours-
anyone lived in a pretty how town (with up so floating many bells down) spring summer autumn winter he sang his didn’t he danced his did.
Women and men(both little and small) cared for anyone not at all they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same sun moon stars rain
children guessed(but only a few and down they forgot as up they grew autumn winter spring summer) that noone loved him more by more
when by now and tree by leaf she laughed his joy she cried his grief bird by snow and stir by still anyone’s any was all to her
someones married their everyones laughed their cryings and did their dance (sleep wake up and then)they said their nevers they slept their dream stars rain sun moon (and only the snow can begin to explain how children are apt to forget to remember with up so floating many bells down)
one day anyone died i guess (and noone stooped to kiss his face) busy folk buried them side by side little by little and was by was
all by all and deep by deep and more by more they dream their sleep noone and anyone earth by april wish by spirit and if by yes.
Women and men(both dong and ding) summer autumn winter spring reaped their sowing and went their came sun moon stars rain
oh that i could give this book every star, star in the starry sky every gasp whisper and wonder, every dream of a dream unheard of, sentences, the roar of my bleating beating heart. every blinking winking of my parabolic eyelashes, my moon wrists skyscraper calves bridged feet and the city of wonder that he has at one time never time discovered. my little mouth in open joy knows not the path to the sly slippery of his genius. He that questions language knows its secrets.
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond by E. E. Cummings
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond any experience,your eyes have their silence: in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me, or which i cannot touch because they are too near
your slightest look easily will unclose me though i have closed myself as fingers, you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens (touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose
or if your wish be to close me, i and my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly, as when the heart of this flower imagines the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals the power of your intense fragility:whose texture compels me with the color of its countries, rendering death and forever with each breathing
(i do not know what it is about you that closes and opens;only something in me understands the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses) nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands
I was so ravished by this poem when i first came across it (sometime in highschool, i think) that i kept a copy of it tacked to my bedroom wall for a good 10 years thereafter.
Then, some years went by, the poem from my wall now tucked away at the bottom of a hope chest - buried with all my other dreams and romances - until one day (one lucky day) i happened across a snippet of an ee cummings poem in an introduction to a book i was reading (this may or may not have been a novel by the great Tad Williams - i will have to get back to you on that one though, because i could be wrong)...
...anyway, the quote was, "listen: there's a hell of a good universe next door; let's go."
...so i ran to the bookstore, found this book, leafed through it and went home to contemplate why spending this amount of money for a book was ridiculous. it didn't take long for me to change my mind. i like to splurge and i like to be ravished.
This tome will be on my "currently reading" list for quite a while. Yesterday my husband was watching an old James Caan movie, "The Gambler" when he paused it and said, "Step away from the computer. Now I'm going to give you three words from a poem (which he'd heard recited in the movie) and I want you to tell me the poet. The words were: "Buffalo Bill's defunct...". I immediately spit out, e. e. cummings. Then I went and grabbed this book and read him this poem which I'd memorized in high school English. He shook his head and said, "Is there a poet you don't know?" LOL! I own about 200 books of poetry and have read them all.
This compilation is one of my favorites and I peruse it often. It'll take me a lifetime to digest all of Mr. Cummings' wonderful poetry.
"if you like my poems let them walk in the evening,a litle behind you"
I've always been fond of E.E. Cummings I think if for nothing else his use of lowercase letters in a way that the old Tumblr/Instagram poetry aesthetic has only ever aspired to. I admire his creativity, his willingness to produce poems that at the end of the day have probably only ever made sense to him and him alone. All of that is certainly a style of poetry I could get behind.
Here, as I'm sure other readers and even scholars can understand, most of what I read went over my head. A lot of these seemed only possible to comprehend when read aloud, and most of the time I did not bother to do that. I'm sure within the proper academic context and the time to take apart each poem I could have gotten much more out of my reading experience here. But that's true of any poetry collection, or any work of written word, really, if you think about it.
I'd like to know a lot more about the context Cummings wrote within, apart from the obvious political stuff like the First World War and the rise of European communism. I'd like to know how truly unique his work is, whom his influences were, et cetera. I wish I'd had a better understanding of his career before I'd embarked upon this book; usually I like to first come to an author's work fresh, without having any conception of their life apart from it, but I think with poetry I made have to start making an exception. It's a tricky balance analyzing both a singular person's reality as well as their written recapitulations of it, but one, as academia has surely proved, truly worthwhile and, in my opinion, profoundly interesting.
i used to read this book on the floor of the bookstore in Singing River Mall in Gautier Mississippi cuz i had no money to buy it! then one Christmas my friend Andrea bought it for me! i have not gotten tired of a single poem. reading his poetry is like reading it for the first time every time. fiercly original - startlingly beautiful.
Cummings is confirmed as one of my favourite lyric poets, though, given his mature style, one can't really imagine singing a lot of them successfully. Technical aspects of his work have been much discussed; typographical and punctuational elements became as important as the words. Thematically, love and sex, nature and contemporary society all feature prominently.
I note down page references for particular favourites in poetry books as I read them. The number of such I noted for this book was very large even when compared to books of similar size. Cummings had immense expressive power and is not merely a showy poet reliant on "superficial" effects. Strongly recommended.
This is on my "currently reading" list, becuase for me, this is a book you read in dribs and drabs. It's rather the same as if you don't want to O.D. on a potent drug, such is the Beauty of this volume.
When I think of
this is one of the
definitions. (see also ts eliot, stephen crane, homer, vergil, tennyson, and browning. for starters)
Cummings was an early favorite. 100 Selected Poems was the first book of poetry I purchased and was read over and over.
The complete works has been with me for much time, drifted in and out of it. As is usual with 'complete works,' when you are accustomed to the best, the lesser entries are a disappointment. The endeavor is a treasure hunt. With Cummings, the material is somewhat redundant in approach; for every poem you love, there are five attempts that miss (not necessarily a negative as, in a scholarly way, the lesser works are a window into the greater). Some of the 'uncollected' works show a side that only peeks into the published books. To get all the good, you've got to go through everything.
100 poems is not enough to get the best of Cummings. I'd quite like someone to do me the favor of putting out a selection of 287-355 poems, no more, no less, with a soft cover (for ease) and good paper.
This book is mammoth, and I regret I have yet to read it fully. cummings can be so frustrating that it is rather impossible to read this book from front to back like a good spy novel. But, his imagery is beautiful, and on occasion it feels as if your mind has grafted into his when everything begins to click into place... even when you have no idea what the hell he's talking about. Right now, I'm about 40% of the way through, and that's okay. If I die at the age of 55, I'll probably have finished this book, and while I will not be happy that I am dead, I can say that my life was enriched. It's also nice to see an author consistently get better at his craft as time passes. From the point of view of a writer, it's rather encouraging to watch a great mind work and struggle through earlier non-genius stages to eventually create masterpieces.
He is the father of free thinkers and all lovers. His poetics launched a whole new attitude and possibilities flourished because of his relentless courage to obliterate literary correctness. He dared to be different. He dared to be silly. He soars high above all other poets who are earthbound by formulaic prose. When I read one of his poems, it rattles my cage for days. It is unnecessary to understand it in the usual sense. His craftiness speaks to the subconscious and evokes emotion and intuition. I am eternally grateful to my 7th grade English teacher in St. George, Utah, for introducing me to this American poet. I have been reading his poems ever since and keep this book on my desk, next to my computer, so that I can pick it up, randomly open it, and be inspired. "Papa Cummings" is the most important writer in my world.
you said Is there anything which is dead or alive more beautiful than my body,to have in your fingers (trembling ever so little)? Looking into your eyes Nothing,i said,except the air of spring smelling of never and forever.
....and through the lattice which moved as if a hand is touched by a hand(which moved as though fingers touch a girl's breast, lightly) Do you believe in always,the wind said to the rain I am too busy with my flowers to believe,the rain answered
I got this as a Christmas present and I'm absolutely stoked. I love E.E. Cummings to death, talk about a poet who speaks directly to my soul.
However, the introduction by Stephen Dunn is infuriating. This man writes circles around himself to avoid having to admit Cummings might just be a phenomenal or even just a good poet. He truly does not want to admit that he loves his poetry without also offering some serious caveats. Perhaps, Mr. Dunn, you should have refused this one particular job. Why the hell do you write an introduction to the COMPLETE POEMS of a writer you seem so embarrassed to enjoy?
INDAH. itulah mengapa saya sangat mencintai puisi-puisi E.E Cummings. oleh syair cintanya yang membuai, saya pun takluk dan mencintainya sampai detik ini. rasanya tak pernah bosan bercinta setiap malam dengan kata-katanya yang lembut dan penuh cinta. seperti menemukan ruang berbagi perasaan; atas kemelut jiwa. seperti menemukan kata penghiburan; atas kesepian. seperti menemukan bahu untuk bersandar; atas kelelahan. seperti menemukan pelukan hangat; atas segala kesedihan. dan seperti menemukan teman berbincang; tentang cinta dan mencintai, tentang kehidupan, dan tentang makna berpuisi itu sendiri; puisi adalah estetika kata. memesona, merangkul, menghanyutkan, sampai menemukan dataran kita sendiri.
pada suatu malam saya mendatanginya atas sebuah alasan. dan lewat selembar jiwanya, ia pun menghampiri saya:
You are tired, (I think) Of the always puzzle of living and doing; And so am I. Come with me, then, And we'll leave it far and far away— (Only you and I, understand!) You have played, (I think) And broke the toys you were fondest of, And are a little tired now; Tired of things that break, and— Just tired. So am I. But I come with a dream in my eyes tonight, And I knock with a rose at the hopeless gate of your heart— Open to me! For I will show you the places Nobody knows, And, if you like, The perfect places of Sleep. Ah, come with me! I'll blow you that wonderful bubble, the moon, That floats forever and a day; I'll sing you the jacinth song Of the probable stars; I will attempt the unstartled steppes of dream, Until I find the Only Flower, Which shall keep (I think) your little heart While the moon comes out of the sea. (LOVE POEMS; X, p. 923)
saya pun terhanyut.
di malam-malam lain, saya mencarinya untuk sebuah hiburan, karena cinta terkadang menghampiri saya dengan tidak bersahabat. lalu, si penyair ini akan memberikan ruang dalam lembarannya untuk kita tersenyum dan terlena karenanya.
Lady, i will touch you with my mind. Touch you and touch and touch until you give me suddenly a smile,shyly obscene (lady i will touch you with my mind.)Touch you,that is all, lightly and you utterly will become with infinite ease the poem which i do not write. (Poems from The Dial Papers, 1919-20; XVII, p. 983)
i love you much(most beautiful darling) more than anyone on the earth and i like you better than everything in the sky —sunlight and singing welcome your coming although winter may be everywhere with such a silence and such a darkness noone can quite begin to guess (except my life)the true time of year— and if what calls itself a world should have the luck to hear such singing(or glimpse such sunlight as will leap higher than high through gayer than gayest someone's heart at your each nearerness)everyone certainly would(my most beautiful darling)believe in nothing but love (95 Poems (1958); dedication, p. 717)
dan...kata-katanya menghilangkan kata-kata di kepala saya. _
ini hanyalah cara saya untuk berbicara dengan puisinya. ini dataran saya sendiri. dan puisi diatas hanya sebagain kecil dari keindahan-keindahan yang ia ciptakan.
dan untuk seseorang yang membuat saya menemui Cummings setiap malam. Mungkin, inilah kamu :)
he isn't looking at anything he isn't looking for something he isn't looking he is seeing what not something outside himself not anything inside himself but himself himself how not as some anyone not as any someone only as a noone(who is everyone) (Uncollected Poems (1910-1962); DOVEGLION, p. 904)*
__ *konon katanya, puisi Doveglion ini dipersembahkan untuk Jose Garcia Villa, seorang penyair Filipina, kritikus sastra, penulis cerita pendek, dan pelukis. Jose Garcia Vila menggunakan nama pena Doveglion yang berasal dari Dove, Eagle, Lion.
I had encountered bits and pieces of E.E. Cummings poetry, here and there, throughout the years, and generally enjoyed it. The wordplay, unique visual arrangements, and willful flouting of some grammatical rules made for a change from the typical, formulaic poetry I was so familiar with from school. This collection was eye-opening, in its breadth. It turns out Cummings had written a variety of kinds of poetry, before settling on the iconic style most now associate with him. The subject matter is also far-ranging, with politics and social subjects being as prevalent (if not more so) than the erotic and love poems which are so well known. This was an excellent resource for seeing the entirety of Cummings' work, but I am glad I chose to borrow it from my local public library. For my own, personal collection, I think I would prefer to pick up a few slim volumes which contain my favorites.
What is so refreshing about EE Cummings is his joyful perspective on life. While his style and form is not traditional, many of his main themes are (love, sex, life, death, childhood, the role of an individual in relation to others, the search for ones true self). Cummings is an iconoclast who rejects many traditional forms of control that limit individualism, but he does not devote his attention to an anger towards these forces. Several of his poems treat them dismissively, intellectually, and instead point one in the direction of positive hope that lies in each person, nature, beauty etc. It is Cummings' celebration of life that makes his poems so enjoyable. Try 'o sweet spontaneous earth' to get a glimpse of the wealth of beauty this poet has to offer.
Not that I like everything that e.e. cummings does (as I'm not typically fond of his syntactic stylistic manipulations), but some of my most favorite poems are by him - and so for that reason alone I give this collection high marks. I was familiar with his poem about Buffalo Bill, but it was really the Woody Allen movie "Hannah and Her Sisters" that exposed me to his work, as Michael Caine's character quotes "somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond" to his lover (or more exactly, his wife's sister). I saw the movie with an ex-GF at the time (way back in the late 1980s), and she was so moved by the poem that she came home with me -- before returning to her new BF the next morning. So I will always love e.e. cummings (and Woody Allen) for that magical night.
E.E. Cummings has the most original and creative style I've ever read. He has his own system of punctuation and grammar. It's as if he's putting his stream of consciousness directly onto the page. If anyone wants to know and enjoy American poetry, Cummings has to be included near the top of your reading list. Also, he's pretty easy to understand.His poems didn't have titles as if he was just jotting down immediate thoughts. I always go back to reading his poems and I always will.