E. E. Cummings: Selected Poems

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Friday, September 01, 2006

edited by Richard Kennedy #26

I wasn't going to write this up now since I just did a poetry book and I read this over a month ago and you know, it could wait. But Rosie O' Donnell and the Associated Press have forced my hand, those bastards! Here's the responsible quote, which is in reference to Rosie's new job:

"it will be hard 4 me 2 not b the boss," she wrote recently in a style reminiscent of the poet e.e. cummings.

A style reminiscent of a text-messaging 9 year old, maybe! This also brings up the other Cummings issue -- capitalization. What is wrong with people? It's almost a CURSE to have some sort of unique offering in this world! Look what happens -- Andy Warhol is reduced to soup cans and people mangling "famous for fifteen minutes," and Cummings is similarly reduced to flamewars about whether his name is capitalized (it is) and people thinking that any old random bit of free-floating punctuation on the page is in "the Cummings style."

That being said, I didn't really know too much about Cummings before I picked up this collection. I was familiar with a few of his more famous poems that appear in anthologies and had come across another that I really liked, so I was on low-level-keep-my-eyes-open alert for more. Which I found while browsing the poetry aisle at my local library. It seemed like a good place to start and I wasn't disappointed.

The book is divided into categories and chronologically within those categories: A Child's World; Sweet Spontaneous Earth; The Poetry of the Eye; Portraits; Love and Its Mysteries; Achieving the Togethercolored Instant; Kitty, Mimi, Marj and Friends; The Dimensions of Being Human; Myths and Allegories; Urban Glimpses; Targets of Satire; and Endings. There is biographical information included in the introduction to each section that helps with context (not that context is necessary, I just like it). The book also features many of his sketches, since he was an artist too.

Here's one I like (found in the Sweet Spontaneous Earth section) that is not too complicated to reproduce:

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it's sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there's never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile
7 comments on "E. E. Cummings: Selected Poems"
  1. "it will be hard 4 me 2 not b the boss," / "may my heart always be open to little birds who are the secrets of living whatever they sing is better than to know"

    My sharp literary mind sees the similary that you missed. They could not be more alike! It's not just capitalization. Both offerings ALSO contain syllables and letters too. (And you said there rosie o.donnell was not reminiscent of e.e. Hah!)

    Don't feel bad, though, this is where the training in linguistics and degrees in literature really push me over the top. I've worked in the same building as Derrida and a host of pretentious comp lit grad students, one of whom was rumored to be dating Quentin Tarrantino in the mid 90's, so you know I'm a girl genius who knows about these things. :-))

  2. P.s. sorry for the surplus "H" and the mysterious closing parenthesis to an aside that never opened. I just get so excited and lose sight of these things

  3. Dude, don't make me drive over there and beat you with the skeleton of Derrida*. (he's dead now, right?) This is where my training in skullduggery and revenge really push me over the top ;)

    * did I ever give you a mix with Scritti Politti's I'm in Love With Jacques Derrida on it? I heart that song very much.

  4. Thanks for the quote. Poetry lives beyond the mind, obviously-- in the veins.

    Who compared Rosie to Cummings anyway?

  5. I don't believe I have Scritti Politti on any mix. Can you hum a few bars?

  6. >>Dude, don't make me drive over there and beat you with the skeleton of Derrida*.<<

    He was just a little guy. I bet it wouldn't hurt that much, which makes the hassling you totally worth it!

    No, you did NOT ever give me a mix with Scritti Politti on it. Perhaps it's time you did.

  7. Patty -- I'm glad you liked the quote! the comparison came from some piece in the Living section of the Oregonian by the Associated Press. (I don't recall the author's name) it was just a little snippet, but enough to flip my switch. Apparently, it doesn't take much!

    Martina -- D'oh! Well, I'm going to get the special lead-lined Derrida numchucks, so WATCH OUT! hee hee.

    I think I'll have to put that song on a new mix because the only one I have it on is OLDER and could use some freshening. (it has a couple of those "what the hell was I thinking" songs on it)


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