e. e. cummings
George J. Firmage,
(Norton)He probably changed forever the way many of us saw the world (the world of love, the world of poetry). To this day there are countless of us who write their names in lower case (i do) in homage to him, write to still the harsh artificial command of the Germanic first person singular, turn it soft, caring,
Lady,i will touch you with my mind
Touch and touch and touch
until you give
me suddenly a smile,shyly obscene
Love was his job, and he wrote it with love. Love passion bodies, love in charity and goodwill, love that provoked ("i fill her hips with boys and girls"), love that was aware that we were at times garish
between the breasts
Marj lie large
men who praise
Marg's cleancornered strokable
all the while love so honest that grotesqueries of it peered through in a trash-strewn Greenwich Village walk-up at dawn,
she got up
with a gashing yellow yawn
and tottered to a glass bumping things.
she picked wearily something from the floor
Her hair was mussed,and she coughed while tying strings
For thirty-seven years he burnished our love with none but the simplest words, passion in a world that didn't take easily to writings about passion ... yet he made do, words he learned to fold here and there, fold them and our loves so that the Moral Police would leave him (and us) (and our love) alone,
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.
He was a man who knew how to touch us (and our secrets) with just the right touch,
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
§ § §
I once saw him read, back in 1955. There must have been 200 of us in the audience and I presume we were all in love with him; I certainly was.
It was at Bryn Mawr College, just outside Philadelphia. It was early evening. He looked like he just got off the tennis court. His way of speaking was elegant; his style impeccable. He was wearing an open soft white cotton shirt, long sleeves, just open enough to hint we just wanted a hint of such poetic force. His was a tanned Ivy League sort of ease and I most remember the freckles and his husky voice, the way he leaned easily into the words ... and my heart thrashing about.
He read simply and didn't comment on what he wrote and said. He didn't have to. I wanted him all for me to live with and have his babies so I would have followed him about that night (or any other night) all night if he so wished but I was terribly outnumbered.
§ § §
I can't think of any writer who as he writes offers more contrast between the page and the word. It's his print tricks ... the visual play where he can take "both at once and brought all of her trembling to a dead standstill" and turn it into
brought allofher tremB
It's typographical trickery but it's more. It is taking the simplest words and turning them around in the heart, kneading them in the fire inside our souls, siting love everywhere, for
her hand is five flowers
upon her whitest belly there is a clever dreamshaped flower
and her wrists are the merest most wonderful flowers my
lady is filled
Love's a coach with gilt hopeless wheels mired
where sits rigidly her body's doll
you said Is
there anything which
is dead or alive more beautiful
than my body,to have in your fingers
(trembling ever so little)?
your eyes Nothing,i said,except the
air of spring smelling of never and forever.
Love I tell you was his forte, the gentle explosion of love-words that he rained on us his loving fans there in the downpour, words enmeshed with every print-tool in the box colons semicolons dashes periods commas spaces lack-of-spaces sprinkled apparently randomly yet concisely exactly where he wanted the tricks of the page that could turn the page and love anywhere he wished, telling us (he did!)
(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.--- Pamela Wylie