Selected Poems by E.E. Cummings
Introduction+commentary by R.S.Kennedy
First published 1960 (poems: 1920-1960)
1/4 poetry (2013 Book Challenge)
“nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands”
it was this quote, which opened the play The Glass Menagerie, that made me want to explore e.e.cummings’s poetry.
explore it i did, and it was an adventure into unknown and unfamiliar lands, but i did find what i was looking for — Poetry.
“The day of the spoken lyric is past. The poem which has at last taken its place does not sing itself; it builds itself, three-dimensionally, gradually, subtly, in the consciousness of the experiencer.” ~E.E.Cummings
e.e. cummings spent his childhood among Nature, and a lot of his poetry is dedicated to its praise. but a significant amount of his poetry was also inspired by the bustling city life, New York, Paris, you name it. e.e. cummings, not only a poet, but an artist, as well, found poetic inspiration in Cubism, Futurism, and Modern Art in general — that is how he developed his unique style, for which he is so widely recognized.
“Early in his career he became know most widely for his placing lowercase letters where capitals are expected, and especially for his use of a small “i” for personal reference. The persona he thus created represents someone who stands away from the crows, unappreciated, without power, yet able to open his heart with song or mock the follies of society and denounce the pretensions of authority.” ~R.S.Kennedy, Introduction
cummings was harshly shaped by war. he detested war, and his atrocious experiences during the war led to a lot of satirical poems in which he criticizes the glorification of war, as well as a novel describing his suffering in a prison camp.
in his early years, e.e. cummings was “ridiculed for [his] eccentricity” (Kennedy), but that brought him popularity, and thus the ability to make his Readers read his poetry.
this is one of the poems where the placement of the characters on a page is part of the experience. it is representational, you can feel it happening, unfolding in front of your eyes. you can *see* the leaf fall.
however, cummings’s poetry is not always that simple in content. here is another poem i enjoyed, it is a portrait of the Cambridge ladies, full of criticism…
“the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls
are unbeautiful and have comfortable minds
(also, with the church’s protestant belissings
daughters, unscented shapeless spirited)
they believe in Christ and Longfellow, both dead,
are invariably interested in so many things—
at the present writing one still finds
delighted fingers knitting for the is it Poles?
perhaps. While permanent faces coyly bandy
scandal of Mrs. N and Professor D
….the Cambridge ladies do not care, above
Cambridge if sometimes in its box of
sky lavender and cornerless, the
moon rattles like a fragment of angry candy”
but i loved his love poems most. naturally, one might say. i feel like the first poems are always about love…
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour 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 evern the rain, has such small hands”
and then his one-liners are the best.♥
(I copied them without the spaces or indents)
“I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance”
“…if day has to become night this is a beautiful way”
“Nothing can surpass the mystery of stillness”
“…for life’s not a paragrah and death i think is no parenthesis”
“what time is it? it is by every star a different time, and each most falsely true;”
there are many more other poems that i wish i could include in this review/reflection, but i cannot. but i can plead: if any of this poetry touched those tingling senses of your soul, please pick up a volume of Cummings. and he was wrong, his name deserves a capital.
the poetry selection was great, and Kennedy’s commentary provided the necessary context for understanding cummings’s poetry.