[lit-ideas] Re: Poetry x 2 = Sabbatical

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 13 Oct 2006 19:11:44 -0700


Well good grief.  I probably quit reading Cummings some time in the 60s.
Sue me for being absent minded.  I don't recall reading your note exposing
Julie's teacher.

My recollection was that he didn't capitalize his name.  I now see it was
his publishers that did that.  Imagine being best known for the unorthodox
usage of capitalization.  What a legacy!   I also read his The Enormous
Room.  I recall enjoying that although given its subject matter I can't
remember why.  Below the Wikipedia article are a couple of his poems that I
liked.  There may have been some more, but I forget.


From Wikipedia:

"Edward Estlin Cummings ( <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/October_14> October
14,  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1894> 1894 -
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_3> September 3,
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1962> 1962), abbreviated E. E. Cummings, was
an  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poetry_of_the_United_States> American
poet,  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Painter> painter,
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essayist> essayist, and
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Playwright> playwright. His publishers and
others have sometimes echoed the unconventional capitalization in his poetry
by writing his name in lower case, as e. e. cummings; Cummings himself did
not approve of this rendering.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._E._Cummings#_note-0> [1]

"Cummings is probably best known for his poems and their unorthodox usage of
capitalization, layout, punctuation and syntax. There is extensive use of
lower case; word gaps, line breaks and gaps appear in unexpected places;
punctuation marks are omitted or misplaced, interrupting sentences and even
individual words; grammar and word order are sometimes strange. Many of his
poems are best understood when read on the page. When read in the correct
fashion, his poems often paint a syntactical picture as vital to the
understanding of the poem as the words themselves.

Despite Cummings' affinity for  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avant-garde>
avant-garde styles and for unusual typography, much of his work is
traditional. Many of his poems are  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonnet>
sonnets, and he occasionally made use of the
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blues> blues form and
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acrostics> acrostics as well. Cummings' poetry
often deals with themes of  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love> love and
nature, as well as the relationship of the individual to the masses and to
the world. His poems are often satirical as well. But, while his poetic
forms and even themes show a close continuity with the romantic tradition,
his work universally shows a particular idiosyncrasy of
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syntax> syntax or way of arranging individual
words into larger phrases and sentences. Many of his most striking poems do
not involve any typographical or punctuational innovations at all, but
purely syntactic ones.

During his lifetime, he published more than 900 poems, along with two
novels, several plays and essays, as well as numerous drawings, sketches,
and paintings. He is remembered as one of the preeminent voices of
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modernist_poetry_in_English> 20th century


buffalo bill is defunct
jesus he was handsome man
he used to ride on a white horse
and shoot clay pigeons
one two three four five
just like that
and what I want to know is
how do you like your blue eyed boy now
mister death ?


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
 - e. e. cummings




-----Original Message-----
From: Robert Paul
Sent: Friday, October 13, 2006 6:21 PM
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Poetry x 2 = Sabbatical


Lawrence wrote:


> I was never very fond of Merwin, and this poem doesn't cause me to change

> mind. The ee cummings lack of punctuation doesn't help, although I don't

> recall that cummings capitalized even the first word.


E. E. Cummings capitalized lots of words, including his own name.






I'm peeved because I've written to this very list on this very topic before

response to something Julie wrote about what her daughter's teacher had

said about Cummings.


Merwin's lower case style is a recent phenomenon.


Robert Paul



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