Pure Poetry #7: e.e cummings

Pure Poetry Week(s):

#1 – 2/23/2011 – Intro & Def Poetry Jam, by Riese
#2 – 2/23/2011 – Eileen Myles, by Carmen
#3 – 2/23/2011 – Anis Mojgani, by Crystal
#4 – 2/24/2011 – Andrea Gibson, by Carmen & Katrina/KC Danger
#5 – 2/25/2011 – Leonard Cohen, by Crystal
#6 – 2/25/2011 – Staceyann Chin, by Carmen
#7 – 2/25/2011 – e.e. cummings, by Intern Emily

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Some people/teachers have told me that poetry is meant to be read aloud, but I’m pretty sure they forgot about e.e cummings when they said that. For example, you might say “a leaf falls on loneliness” aloud, but then you would miss this:

l(a

le
af
fa
ll

s)
one
l

iness

e.e cummings is also really hard to read aloud because of his weird use of syntax. He’s kind of like Yoda but more sexual.

The first poem I ever read by e.e cummings was “i like my body” which you probably have read before if you’ve read poetry. Here it is:

i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite a new thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh . . . . And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you quite so new

What really got me was the way words just seem to fall out of his mouth. Like he held his feelings deep down inside until he couldn’t contain them anymore and then they just spewed out of his fingertips onto the page, like muscles better and nerves more. He goes beyond frivolous language right to the root of things.

I don’t know very much about e.e cummings’ life. I don’t know if I want to. He likely had a purpose for writing each poem; he’s written war poems and satirical poems and love poems and all of the poems but sometimes they don’t feel like they have specific meanings, they just feel like words falling all over you. You might say “what the hell is the ‘shocking fuzz of your electric fur’” or “‘eyes big love-crumbs’ is not a thing that makes sense,” but you are thinking too hard. Don’t think. Just feel, and you might be transported to a place where your lover is stroking your sides, making the little tiny hairs on your body stand on end.

my love you are a bright mountain which feels.
you are a keen mountain and an eager island whose
lively slopes are based always in the me which is shrugging,which is
under you and around you and forever:i am the hugging sea.

The special thing about e.e cummings is that his poems are not actually a spontaneous burst of feeling. He’s just really, really good at making you think it is.

Like I said, e.e cummings has written a lot of different types of poems. But the poems you’re probably interested in are Erotic Poems. Written on the back: Many years ago the prodigious and famously prolific E. E. Cummings sat in his study writing and thinking about sex. How does that sound to you. Does that sound like something you might want to read. Well, go on.

worms are the words but joy’s the voice
down shall go which and up come who
breasts will be breasts and thighs will be thighs
deeds cannot dream what dreams can do
-time is a tree (this life one leaf)
but love is the sky and i am for you
just so long and long enough

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Emily has written 123 articles for us.

31 Comments

  1. Thumb up 0

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    I should have done the same as you and not try to find out more about his life. I don’t remember what bothered me, but something did.

    Now i lay(with everywhere around)
    me(the great dim deep sound
    of rain;and of always and of nowhere)and
    what a gently welcoming darkestness–

    now i lay me down(in a most steep
    more than music)feeling that sunlight is
    (life and day are)only loaned:whereas
    night is given(night and death and the rain

    are given;and given is how beautifully snow)

    now i lay me down to dream of(nothing
    i or any somebody or you
    can begin to begin to imagine)

    something which nobody may keep.
    now i lay me down to dream of Spring

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    I spent an entire semester studying e.e. cummings and dissecting his poems word by word. I thought I might be sick of him after all that time, but instead I came out of it even deeper in love with him and his work.

    I think that means something about how awesome he is.

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    “Buffalo Bill’s

    defunct

    who used to

    ride a watersmooth-silver

    stallion

    and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat

    Jesus

    he was a handsome man

    and what i want to know is

    how do you like your blueeyed boy

    Mister Death”

    yes, E. E. Cummings. The first poems I ever fell in love with.

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    ee cummings really is one of the best poets. He’s so playful, yet so thought-provoking. This one is a top ten:

    she being Brand

    -new;and you
    know consequently a
    little stiff i was
    careful of her and(having

    thoroughly oiled the universal
    joint tested my gas felt of
    her radiator made sure her springs were O.

    K.)i went right to it flooded-the-carburetor cranked her

    up,slipped the
    clutch(and then somehow got into reverse she
    kicked what
    the hell)next
    minute i was back in neutral tried and

    again slo-wly;bare,ly nudg. ing(my

    lev-er Right-
    oh and her gears being in
    A 1 shape passed
    from low through
    second-in-to-high like
    greasedlightning)just as we turned the corner of Divinity

    avenue i touched the accelerator and give

    her the juice,good

    (it

    was the first ride and believe i we was
    happy to see how nice she acted right up to
    the last minute coming back down by the Public
    Gardens i slammed on

    the
    internalexpanding
    &
    externalcontracting
    brakes Bothatonce and

    brought allofher tremB
    -ling
    to a:dead.

    stand-
    ;Still)

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    i also love e.e cummings because he’s so freaking snarky. he has such a wide range of poems. ahhh.

    why must itself up every of a park
    anus stick some quote statue unquote to
    prove that a hero equals any jerk
    who was afraid to dare to answer “no”?
    quote citizens unquote might otherwise
    forget(to err is human;to forgive
    divine)that if the quote state unquote says
    “kill” killing is an act of christian love.
    “Nothing” in 1944 AD
    “can stand against the argument of mil
    itary necessity”(generalissimo e)
    and echo answers “there is no appeal
    from reason”(freud)–you pays your money and
    you doesn’t take your choice.Ain’t freedom grand

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    my favorite quote by cummings, i once used it in a paper i wrote about one of his coolest poems: cleopatra built

    “poetry happens to be an art ;and artists happen to be human beings…As for a few trifling delusions like the ‘past’ and ‘present’ and ‘future’ of quote mankind unquote,they may be big enough for a couple billion super mechanized submorons but they’re much too small for one human being…Every artist’s strictly illimitable country is himself…a human being who’s true to himself…is immortal ;and all the atomic bombs of all the antiartists in spacetime will never civilize immortality.”

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    XIV is one of my favorite poems ever:

    “pity this busy monster,manunkind,

    not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
    your victum(death and life safely beyond)

    plays with the bigness of his littleness
    -electrons deify one razorblade
    into a mountainrange;lenses extend

    unwish through curving wherewhen until unwish
    returns on its unself.
    A world of made
    is not a world of born-pity poor flesh

    and trees,poor stars and stones,but never this
    fine specimen of hypermagical

    ultraomnipotence. We doctors know

    a hopeless case if-listen:there’s a hell
    of a good universe next door;let’s go”

    “Progress is a comfortable disease” is one of my favorite groupings of words ever. EVER.

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      I love this one too. probably because I am a total bitch, one of the things I like about it is the way people completely misquote the final stanza (or well, most of it: “listen:there’s a hell/of a good universe next door;let’s go”, which gets quoted as like … aspirational (and it’s great for that, it’s beautiful) but I read it as more like: OK so now that we’ve fucked up this one, let’s move to the next one!

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    For Sarah Warner:

    i carry your heart with me

    i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
    my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
    i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
    by only me is your doing,my darling)
    i fear
    no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
    no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
    and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
    and whatever a sun will always sing is you

    here is the deepest secret nobody knows
    (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
    and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
    higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
    and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

    i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

    Edward Estlin Cummings

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    My introduction to e.e. cummings poetry was in grade 12 English Lit, when we read the funny “may i feel said he”. Haven’t read much other stuff, but this post was a good introduction to some of his other stuff.

    may i feel said he
    (i’ll squeal said she
    just once said he)
    it’s fun said she

    (may i touch said he
    how much said she
    a lot said he)
    why not said she

    (let’s go said he
    not too far said she
    what’s too far said he
    where you are said she)

    may i stay said he
    which way said she
    like this said he
    if you kiss said she

    may i move said he
    is it love said she)
    if you’re willing said he
    (but you’re killing said she

    but it’s life said he
    but your wife said she
    now said he)
    ow said she

    (tiptop said he
    don’t stop said she
    oh no said he)
    go slow said she

    (cccome?said he
    ummm said she)
    you’re divine!said he
    (you are Mine said she)

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    I love Cummings, too, and especially did when I was a teenager & perhaps not quite so jaded. This poem especially (i think it is important to remember the moral):

    since feeling is first
    who pays any attention
    to the syntax of things
    will never wholly kiss you;

    wholly to be a fool
    while Spring is in the world

    my blood approves,
    and kisses are a better fate
    than wisdom
    lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
    - the best gesture of my brain is less than
    your eyelids’ flutter which says

    we are for each other; then
    laugh, leaning back in my arms
    for life’s not a paragraph

    And death i think is no parenthesis

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    Oh, e e cummings. Love. “anyone lived in a pretty how town” was my seventh-grade discovery, though “what if a much of a which of a wind” threatens to be my favorite now.

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    even though I am atheist this one comes to me all the time (and it’s good to read aloud):

    i thank You God for most this amazing
    day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
    and a blue dream of sky;and for everything
    which is natural which is infinite which is yes

    (i who have died am alive again today,
    and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
    day of life and love and wings;and of the gay
    great happening ilimitably earth)

    how should tasting touching hearing seeing
    breathing any – lifted from the no
    of all nothing – human merely being
    doubt unimaginable You?

    (now the ears of my ears awake and
    now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

    that last couplet you guys. I can’t even.

    Also my favourite lines from “anyone lived in a pretty how town”:

    (and only the snow can begin to explain
    how children are apt to forget to remember
    with up so floating many bells down)

    I went on this massive cummings kick last week so this is perfectly timed HE IS AMAZING.

    Also Emily this post is really really good and gives me a lot of feelings, especially where you said that sometimes his sentences don’t appear to make sense with your reading-brain, but will if you read them with your feeling-brain. part of the reason some poets are so amazing is they seem to have a direct line to your feeling-brain that bypasses your reading-brain all together.

    Also this: “The special thing about e.e cummings is that his poems are not actually a spontaneous burst of feeling. He’s just really, really good at making you think it is.” YES.

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    i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
    my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
    i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
    by only me is your doing,my darling)
     
    i fear no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
    no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
    and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
    and whatever a sun will always sing is you
     
    here is the deepest secret nobody knows
    (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
    and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
    higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
    and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
     
    i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
     
    - e. e. cummings ~
     

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    What an awesome find…
    It was indeed refreshing to one as I
    I am inspired by the promise of requited love
    I am aspired by the dissolute unrequited desire
    Overall I was enthralled by the above contributions.
    U made my day

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