Posts Tagged ‘e.e. cummings’

E.E. Cummings month: “My sweet old etcetera”

August 27, 2010


via

my sweet old etcetera
aunt lucy during the recent
war could and what
is more did tell you just
what everybody was fighting

for,
my sister


via

isabel created hundreds
(and
hundreds) of socks not to
mention shirts fleaproof earwarmers
etcetera wristers etcetera, my


via

mother hoped that

i would die etcetera
bravely of course my father used
to become hoarse talking about how it was
a privilege and if only he
could meanwhile my


via

self etcetera lay quietly
in the deep mud et

cetera
(dreaming,
et
     cetera, of
Your smile
eyes knees and of your Etcetera)

(E.E. Cummings. “My sweet old etcetera.” is 5. New York: Liveright, 1926.)

is 5 was a collection of satirical and anti-war poems which Cummings wrote during his time as an ambulance driver in France during the Great War. That’s when he also began working on his novel The Enormous Room.


via

The above letter of August 15, 1918, is transcribed:

“My Darling little sweetheart,

Just a few lines hoping that my letter finds you in the best of health, I’m very well at present and my family the same, Well loving, you see I’m faithfully thinking of you,

You know I love you very well my little heart, I am never loving anyone else,

If you are killed I will stay with you all the time and with my little baby if you give me one, I hope to see you very soon,

So will leave you now with my best remembrances from all my family,

Best love, from your loving little sweetheart, wife very soon.”

The beautiful and painstakingly artistic letter has recently become part of the Love and War exhibit at the Australian War Memorial, who are asking anyone who recognizes the couple, a Martha Gybert of Saint Sulpice, France, and the Australian soldier to whom she writes, to notify them as to what became of the two. They believe the letter may have made its way to Australia because it had either come over from France with the bride, or was returned with the soldier’s body and other effects. Obviously, the hope is that it is the former explanation. More info here.

Yesterday, in lieu of my previous service plan for the 100th birthday of Mother Teresa, I was called in to substitute for my ill colleague again. So, during the time the children write in their journals, I had them instead follow a basic form letter and write thank you notes, with drawings, to soldiers who will be serving in Afghanistan. The Cappy (he has been promoted now but calling him the Commie seems … “off”) is hooking it up because he knows the unit and the chaplain to whom I’ll be sending the letters, for which I’m so thankful. It was a spur-of-the-moment idea that ended up working out much better than I could have imagined; I initially thought it was hackneyed but I hadn’t counted on the children’s reaction to the letter-writing. The kids were genuinely fascinated by the project, and we traced over the world map in the classroom to demonstrate the countries their letters would cross before they arrived in their recipients’ hands.

I was surprised by how engrossed they were in the idea and how the details of why there are U.N. forces in Afghanistan at all seemed so revelatory to them. (I stuck mainly with the line that there are bad people there who are keeping the good people in the country from having the resources they need to succeed, so we and other forces are trying to help the good people get their country back from the bad; like, how do you explain the complexities of involvement in Afghanistan to fourth graders? Even explaining it to ourselves is problematic.)

When a girl told me, “My grandfather is a vet. He lives with us now,” and I said, “Oh, was he in World War II, or Korea?” and she replied, with a look at me like I was deranged, “Vietnam. My uncle was in the first war in Iraq,” I realized that these nine-year-old American children have grown up with the Towers down and all manner of skirmishes and action in the Middle East as a matter of course. They were so “in to” the project because the idea of a military presence in the Middle East, with attendant nightly television news reports of suicide bombers and attacks on bases, is so completely de rigeur to them as to be almost meaningless; unless someone in their life has been personally touched by the violence, it is just another part of the buzzing adult world that surrounds them.

For most, this was the first time it occurred to them to put a physically human face on stories that are a regular — and regularly ignored — part of their daily lives. This was a first time of actual connection, emphathetic thought and prayer for people serving around the globe in wartorn places that are just names on television for the kids.

For my part, I’d been concerned, because it is a parochial school, about taking care not to conflate patriotism with a love of God because that can lead down such dangerous behavioral and judgemental alleyways, as well as being always wary of the wavering line between informed support and general jingoism. But I was surprised that, beyond drawing war planes and helicopters or crosses and flags, the kids wanted to know more about the actual lives of the people who would be receiving their letters: I learned something, too, from this project, and that was that I can be as guilty of stereotyping an abundantly adamant yellow-ribbon-sporting, SUV-driving fellow citizen as I suppose they might be of me, who approaches an understanding of conflicts in what I thought was a less black-and-white way. I don’t know it all and neither do they. These kids drew their symbols and wrote out their dutifully trite declarations of support, but it was from a place of real love, and curiosity, and empathy. They are the next generation who will decide how to successfully negotiate international conflicts, and they are not a lost nor entirely manipulable cause. It was a very sobering and educational experience for us all. Probably more so for me than them, but I am glad that they seemed to have derived a real pleasure from the project.

E.E. Cummings Month: “All in green went my love riding”

August 25, 2010

The following Cummings poem is not much like his usual at first blush, but is really full of simple wordplay and tricksy manipulation of conventions that conceals a more complex meaning than simple medieval ballad — which is much more in keeping with what you’d expect, yes? “All in green went my love riding” has been set to music and sung by, among many, Warren Kinsella and one of my patronessiest of patron saints, Joan Baez. The most widely accepted meaning of the poem is that it is a subtle retelling of the myth of Artemis and Actaeon. (Variations of the myth here.)


Modesty Blaise.

As far as I can tell, in the version on which Cummings has based “All in green went my love riding,” Actaeon is a merciless hunter who desires to marry Artemis after he sees her bathing. The virgin warrior goddess is furious at this cheek, particularly that he would spy on her and then imply she owes him marriage (she fiercely protected her physical privacy and chastity).


The lovely and talented Marguerite Empey.

Artemis punishes Actaeon by warning him that, if he ever speaks, he will be transformed in to a stag and devoured by his own bitches, which is where it seems Cummings picks up the thread. Here it is.

All in green went my love riding
on a great horse of gold
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
the merry deer ran before.


Fleeter be they than dappled dreams
the swift sweet deer
the red rare deer.

Four red roebuck at a white water
the cruel bugle sang before.


Horn at hip went my love riding
riding the echo down
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
the level meadows ran before.


via sabino on the tumblr.

Softer be they than slippered sleep
the lean lithe deer
the fleet flown deer.

Four fleet does at a gold valley
the famished arrow sang before.


Photographed by Neil Krug.

Bow at belt went my love riding
riding the mountain down
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
the sheer peaks ran before.


Paler be they than daunting death
the sleek slim deer
the tall tense deer.

Four tell stags at a green mountain
the lucky hunter sang before.


Amber Weber for I.D., September 2008.

All in green went my love riding
on a great horse of gold
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
my heart fell dead before.

(E.E. Cummings, “All in green went my love riding.” Tulips and Chimneys. 1923.)

He just had to sing all triumphantly, didn’t he, in front of the green mountain? Heart = hart. A synonym for stag. Pretty sure that between the line about stags and the repetition of “all in green,” Artemis changed him in to one of the “Four tell stags” and his own dogs ripped him to pieces.


Liv Tyler.

Also I noticed on this re-read that she dwells longer than I remembered over her four dead does. This makes sense because besides being the ruler of nature and the hunt, she held deer and cypress as her closest animal and plant brethren. The victims of Actaeon’s arrow and his ravaging dogs, those four deer emerge in her description unquestionably as females: they are slender, pale, lithe, slippered — red and rare. Virginal language, am I right? That purity and feminity gives the “Four” power and deserves honor, just as does Artemis’s own virginity, which bathtime-peeping Actaeon and his sleazy, brutish hounds do not seem to understand or respect.


via thechocobrig on the tumblr. fabulous photojournal.

By contrast, in all of the lines which describe his four animals, Actaeon’s “four” appears in lowercase letters — the only Cummingsish punctuation-play in the poem, as the four remain in lowercase despite following periods, which Cummings otherwise obeys with great restraint for the rest of the poem. Actaeon’s four are the four hounds; the miniscule rather than majuscal “f” usage denotes the speaker’s low opinion of them and bodes very badly for them, considering Artemis’s usual respect for nature. The number four, besides paralleling the count of her lost deer, is suggestive of pursuit of living creatures in all four of the cardinal directions, a kind of inescapable squared threat in terms of the swath a disrespectful hunter might cut through the planet of a goddess who considers herself the mother of nature — because of its relationship to “four corners,” “four winds,” etc, the total of four hounds is exactly the right number to appear confounding and problematic. An unignorable affront which must be dealt with.


Abbey Lee Kershaw for Dazed and Confused.

The four hounds may also perhaps be a reference to the Horsemen of the Apocalypse who accompany Death in the Revelation of St. John: the hunter brings destruction to what Artemis is sworn to protect; she is the patroness of life on earth, a mother-warrior figure who gives her attention to springs and deer, and Actaeon is that life’s death, a sanguine, horn-blowing archer with attendantly destructive hell hounds that tear her living creatures apart. An essentially unforgivable encroachment on all that Artemis stands for. Those four lean crouching motherfuckers act as a smirking antithesis to her binding and symbiotic method of mothering the earth, by dismantling and devouring everything they encounter, famished agents of a chaos she is sworn to repel. They tear things up.

In this case, their master, too. Does the punishment fit the crime?

I’ve read that there are allusions here to “The Knight’s Tale” in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I never make it far through those. I know as a happy medievalist I’m supposed to read and adore them and that what I’m about to tell you could get me yelled at and kicked out of the society of nerds who read material that predates van Leeuwenhoek, the inventor of the very lenses the best of the best wear to strain our eyes over the stuff we love, but I feel that poring over Chaucer is something akin to people in a thousand years venerating the script of Rat Race. Great movie, solidly entertaining, good cast with varied backstories, but, like, how dire is reading it to the quest of accurately intrepreting society in this era? Not much. (Commence lambasting, Chaucer-lovers. Change my mind?)


Journey Into Perplexity right here on the wordpress.

Anyway. If you follow that link to the wiki list of variations on the Artemis and Actaeon story, you can see that different authors have spent time cataloguing the precise names of the up-to-fifty hounds involved in Actaeon’s punishment.

I guess the lesson here is that, if you want even a chance with Artemis, you need to be green in deed as well as dress. Keep your elbows out and for god’s sake recycle, dudes.

E.E. Cummings Month: “i like my body when it is with your”

August 24, 2010

I’ve had a lot of friends celebrating romantic occasions recently. This is for them, and for hope.



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,


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Gondry, 2004).

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


(E.E. Cummings, “i like my body when it is with your.” Written for Elaine Thayer. They divorced in December of 1924. The poem was published Valentine’s Day, 1925.)


Jean Seberg, À bout de souffle/Breathless (Godard, 1960).

If you feel often like me then these Cummings love poems might make us lost ones a little lonely, but if I can glean a positive from it, they are written with such passion that you cannot help, with some surprise, hoping to find a fraction of that abandon and joy, whether again or for the first time. And believing such a thing is possible to find even after you’ve experienecd deep pain or felt yourself set always apart from the crowd of the easily popular, incomprehensible, “normal” socializing world, the idea that you might still connect with someone in a deep, resonantly real way, one that isn’t predicated on current conventions of date-marking-success like alcohol or knowing lines from an eighties sitcom, is something that is never bad. I think too that stripping away all the trappings that surround a date or relationship, and seeing how well the vibe between you stands up absent of distraction, mood-altering substances, and the intervention of entertainment technology is maybe a good idea, too.


Katharine Hepburn, Woman of the Year (George Stevens, 1942).

Maybe it’s even vital and something you should do right out of the gate instead of triking along together parallel-playing in front of the television at being in touch when really you are still little materialistic children faking love for someone else in a thousand ways while you prevent yourself from really loving anyone by putting up these walls of text messages and reality shows you have to watch and social networking and earbuds and booze and — hey-hey-hey — blogging. We make ourselves alone even when we’re together, and then we can’t understand why we can’t form connections… I am totally depressing myself. This was supposed to be about hope and it still is. Maybe I’m just whittling away the non-reality of all the malarkey that’s kept my hope from fulfillment in the past.

E.E. Cummings Month: A dribbling moan of jazz

August 21, 2010


god pity me whom(god distinctly has)
the weightless svelte drifting sexual feather
of your shall i say body?follows
truly through a dribbling moan of jazz


whose arched occasional stepped youth swallows
curvingly the keeness of my hips;
or,your first twitch of crisp boy flesh dips
my height in a firm fragile stinging weather,

(breathless with sharp necessary lips)kid



female cracksman of the nifty,ruffian-rogue,
laughing body with wise breasts half-grown,
lisping flesh quick to thread the fattish drone
of I Want a Doll,



                              wispish-agile feet with slid
steps parting the tousle of saxophonic brogue.

(E.E. Cummings, “god pity me whom(god distinctly has),” Tulips and Chimneys, 1923.)

One of his “jazz poems,” “god pity me(whom god distinctly has)” is included in a lot of anthologies. As an example, Cummings’ poem was printed in Sascha Feinstein and Yusef Komunyakaa’s The Second Set: The Jazz Poetry Anthology Volume 2 (Indiana: University Press, 1996).

The concept of jazz as a language not only evokes analogies between musical and linguistic structures but also the idea that instruments can, in fact, speak to us. … In jazz clubs you hear people call out, “Talk to me!” or say, “This music speaks to me.” In addition to the pulse of jazz, they hear cadences and inflections that correspond to words, sentences, whole stories.

(Ibid.)


If jazz strives to attain the syntactic logic of … “a developmental language” of its own, then poetry, without question, strives that much harder to achieve the emotional complexity and rhythmic drive of music. In conjunction with The Jazz Poetry Anthology (1991), this book presents a selection of jazz poems that, we hope, will offer “ongoing implications for thought.” …

We have chosen poems by Hart Crane, e.e. cummings [sic], DuBose Heyward, Vachel Lindsay, and Muriel Rukeyser because of their literary prescence in the poetry circles of the time.

(Ibid.)


Many of the poets in both anthologies have written extensively about jazz, so much that jazz seems to have influenced their work as much as literary sources. Sometimes poems have been written as series, which might be seen as being parallel to jazz musicians who improvise several choruses.

(Ibid.)

I hope to have time to come back to that similarly-themed-pieces-as-jazz-variations, you know, kind of a bebop, exploratory improv concept as it plays out in a jazz form of literature: I found some other Cummings prostitution poems that deal in parallels and complements to the “kitty” one from earlier this month, and I think that fits with the idea of a series of riffs on the same idea. I will try to get to that. Promise.

All photographs by Ellen von Unwerth.

E.E Cummings Month: “i carry your heart with me”

August 13, 2010

Something a little more romantic and dear after the weight of yesterday’s scathing and shocking, though tremendously effective, “kitty” piece. Like “in spite of everything,” which was highlighted earlier this month, “i carry your heart with me” is one of Cummings’ love poems.


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. “i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart).” 95 Poems. 1958.)

The poem almost takes a sonnet form in its lines and meter, but Cummings plays with the form, of course, while still keeping true to a traditional theme of sonnets: love. It’s secret and touching. I like especially the way that this love echoes for Cummings the shapes of nature and takes the form of every aspect of his world. It’s a beautiful idea. A love that brings us to a greater oneness with the universe instead of making us feel crushed and lonely: that is a thing to strive for.

E.E. Cummings Month: “‘kitty’. sixteen,5’1″,white,prostitute.”

August 12, 2010

— Sorry for the sparseness and lateness of posts today, dudes, but my grandmother is having a really Bad Day. The human brain can be such a bastard. —



“kitty”. sixteen,5’1″,white,prostitute.

ducking always the touch of must and shall,
whose slippery body is Death’s littlest pal,

skilled in quick softness. Unspontaneous. cute.

the signal perfume of whose unrepute
focusses in the sweet slow animal
bottomless eyes importantly banal,


Kitty. a whore. Sixteen
                                                   you corking brute
amused from time to time by clever drolls
fearsomely who do keep their sunday flower.
The babybreasted broad “kitty” twice eight

— beer nothing,the lady’ll have a whiskey-sour —
whose least amazing smile is the most great
common divisor of unequal souls.

(E.E. Cummings, “‘kitty’. sixteen,5’1″,white,prostitute.” 1923.)

“Whose slippery body is death’s littlest pal.” God.

The poem is designed to shock and it is shocking — not so much her age of 16, which was consenting in most states at that time, and there is no harm in a consenting human exploring their own sexuality, but the idea that Kitty is such an old and careful but hopeless hand at the sex trade that it is her sole living and she has abandoned her childhood likely earlier than she would have liked, implying her experiences began at a far more tender age — as well as containing a moral without being overly pedantic about it: my interpretation is that Mr. Cummings finds the youth of this prostitute, Kitty, sad and abhorrent, and is taking to task the entire trade, together with its purveyors, its proponents, and its “banal” and wicked pervasiveness, which can crush the spirit of a child and that can drive the spark and spontaneity out of the eyes of a “cute,” young girl. He is disgusted that a young woman’s agency has been foreclosed to a system that allows her no real freedom. That is my take and I stand by it staunchly. If you take the poem to mean that Mr. Cummings is fine with teen prostitutes, I’m interested to hear your argument.


Girl sold by her family in Thailand. Please only follow this link if you are not the weepy kind. (I am.)

In a lot of Eastern European and developing Asian countries, this problem is so nauseatingly endemic that its only solution is harsh, swift, Actually ENFORCED sanctions from other countries.

For those in more “developed” nations (raise your pinky, okay, cause we are sooo evolved with our computers and cell phones), I think the greatest way to prevent a sad poem like this from becoming the reality for that sullen girl-woman you see with her arms folded in front of the cosmetics display at the grocery while her mother fills the cart with gin and baby formula is to start coaching early and hard in strategies for self-esteem and success the likely victims of the child prostitution trade. I take no such high road as Mr. Cummings about obliquely non-pedantic “you should stop this,” methods: he is far more subtle and poetic than I, obviously. With protection of those vulnerable targets in mind, here is a short and very hastily-assembled list of groups that I think do that. If you have any to add, please, please do.



Organizations for child advocacy


— In the U.S. (all of these non-profits have been rated A or higher by charitywatch.org; do not leave home without it … wish they would start tackling and rating more international non-profits) –

  • National Alliance to End Homelessness. Common factors in teen prostitution: runaways; homelessness. Donate time or money.
  • Save the Children. Mainly focused on the United States, but also offers opportunities to better the lives of children in other countries
  • — In the U.K./Europe –

  • STOP (Trafficking UK). In support of the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 and the sanctions established against the trafficking of humans, espeically women and children, by the U.N. in Palermo in 2000, STOP (Trafficking UK) is an advocacy group for helping those who have come to the U.K. via the channels of the illegal sex trade — women and children — to find jobs, parents as need be, literacy coaches, counseling, and any other support they need. A new but excellent group.
  • UN.GIFT (the United Nations Global Initiative to Stop Human Trafficking). “UN.GIFT works with all stakeholders – governments, business, academia, civil society and the media – to support each other’s work, create new partnerships and develop effective tools to fight human trafficking.” UN.GIFT is a great jumping-off point for finding ways to help in your specific country.
  • — Other efforts abroad to advocate for disadvantaged youth and stem child prostitution –

  • Pearl S. Buck International: founded by the author of The Good Earth. Through PSBI you can arrange an inter-racial adoption via Welcome House or you may choose to sponsor a child. Special program for children in Asia, where many countries’ lax laws governing prostitution make it a viable and thriving trade, via Opportunity House.
  • The Global Fund for Children. Well-rated, takes your money and spreads it around well-researched country-based special needs groups.
  • And of course, UNICEF, the United Nations International Childrens’ Emergency Fund. I don’t want to tell you how to live your life, but it’s what Audrey would want.


  • Photo credits, top to bottom: Jodie Foster as Iris “Easy” Steensman, Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976); Brooke Shields as Violet in Pretty Baby (Lois Malle, 1978); Iris and Travis Bickle dine out in Taxi Driver — Jodie again with Robert De Niro; I credited the center one below the picture itself and I again find it flabbergasting and horrifying; Brooke on the cover of People in May 1978; Jodie again from TD, heartbreakingly young in the green sunglasses — to me this has become an iconic outfit, summing up totally her character and Iris’s backstory and motivations; Brooke again out of costume on set for Pretty Baby, a surprising addition to the so-called “Raider Nation.” I assume the Raiders were still in their brief stationing at Los Angeles at this point.

    E.E. Cummings Month: Manunkind — there’s a hell of a good universe next door; let’s go

    August 11, 2010


    via defacedbooks on the tumblr.

    pity this busy monster,manunkind,

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

    plays with the bigness of his littleness


    A hardworking Man of Science.

    –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


    12 Monkeys still via the mental shed.

    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, “XIV.” 1944.)

    Let’s.

    This poem resonates with deeply effective wordplay and metaphor that are still just exactly what. “Man-unkind.” “Electrons deify one razor blade in to a mountain range.” “A world of made is not a world of born.” “Hyper-magical ultra-omnipotence.” Just exactly. I respond strongly to it because for me it’s a true intersection of my sci-fi geek self and my literary interests. But it also rings bigger bells for me.


    via nevver on the tumblr.

    I think I will put together a Movie Moment soon relating this to the documentary Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1983). “Koyaanisqatsi” means an imbalanced world, or a world and life that call for another way of life. It speaks to straying so far from any possible Creator’s vision for our selves and our planet that we must change everything about all of it, and it’s something I’ve found myself thinking about a lot in the last few years.




    * “The Freedom for Animals Association on Second Avenue is the secret headquarters of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys. They’re the ones who are going to do it. Have a merry Christmas!”

    E.E. Cummings Month: a total stranger one black day knocked living the hell out of me

    August 10, 2010


    a total stranger one black day
    knocked living the hell out of me —

    who found forgiveness hard because
    my(as it happened)self he was

    — but now that fiend and i are such
    immortal friends the other’s each.

    (E.E. Cummings, “Poem 58″. 95 Poems, New York: Harcourt, 1958.)

    “It is the curse of mankind that these polar twins should be constantly struggling.” — Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

    Perfect for the issues dealt with in this poem, am I right? Have you ever roundhoused yourself and been totally gobsmacked by your own behavior? I should think we all have, at some point (not all of us as acutely as Mr. Anon. and Tyler Durden, here). You think you have it under control but you have that Other You that just up and emerges. Look out for That Guy.

    If you let him out a bit at a time, then he is mainly manageable, but, if you shut him down everytime he has something he wants to express, and you’re constantly repressing him, then when he gets out, there’s no telling what he’ll do and say. The harder you hold That Guy back, the worse That Guy behaves when he gets loose. I’m not pulling this from the air: I’m speaking from experience. If you want to befriend the fiend, you’ve got to first want to do it, and second do it by degrees. Any other method ends badly. Very badly.

    I’m thinking of starting a “Fight Club Friday” feature. But I apologize in advance if it doesn’t get off the ground right away. I’m both cautious and lazy.

    E.E. Cummings Month: “Humanity i love you”

    August 7, 2010


    October 2009.

    Humanity i love you
    because you would rather black the boots of
    success than enquire whose soul dangles from his
    watch-chain which would be embarrassing for both

    parties and because you
    unflinchingly applaud all
    songs containing the words country home and
    mother when sung at the old howard


    via Square America.

    Humanity i love you because
    when you’re hard up you pawn your
    intelligence to buy a drink and when
    you’re flush pride keeps

    you from the pawn shops and
    because you are continually committing
    nuisances but more
    especially in your own house


    Humanity i love you because you
    are perpetually putting the secret of
    life in your pants and forgetting
    it’s there and sitting down

    on it
    and because you are
    forever making poems in the lap
    of death Humanity

    i hate you


    Jo Champa photographed by Helmut Newton at Hotel Chelsea, New York. 1988.

    That is all just exactly the way of it, yes? I thank god that Mr. Cummings did not live to see the antics humanity gets up to when they’ve got a reality television show’s camera aimed at them. I don’t think he could have stood it. But we all say things like that, and yet those type of programs remain on the air every hour and continue to spawn off of one another like roaches scuttling over a pile of dollar bills, so someone here is lying.

    E.E. Cummings Month: “Buffalo Bill’s”

    August 2, 2010



    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

    (E.E. Cummings, “Buffalo Bill’s,” 1920.)


    via

    Well, how do you, Mr. Death.

    This is one of several Cummings poems first published in The Dial in 1920. A very early example of his fascination with unusual forms, “Buffalo Bill’s” use of whitespace in the poem is in part influenced by Pablo Picasso, who Cummings met in Paris after serving time in France on a trumped up charge of being a spy during the Great War (total folklore — he was a volunteer ambulance driver and was guilty of nothing more than being an outspoken critic of war, violence, and suffering in general). Cummings was also a painter and was inspired by Picasso’s formalistic experiments in cubism: he carried the philosophy forward in to his writing as well.

    E.E. Cummings Month: “in spite of everything”

    August 1, 2010


    in spite of everything
    which breathes and moves,since Doom
    (with white longest hands
    neatening each crease)
    will smooth entirely our minds

    -before leaving my room
    i turn,and(stooping
    through the morning)kiss
    this pillow,dear
    where our heads lived and were.

    (E.E. Cummings, “in spite of everything.” 1931.)


    It always ends in an empty room, but what ecstasy filled it before. Photograph by Anne Kristoff on the etsy.

    What is beautiful to me in this poem is that it has more than a simple “stop and smell the roses” theme: Cummings admits that the world in its entirety as we perceive it will come to an end, yes, but that not only must we take joy in small moments, we must actually treasure these moments even as they have passed within our own lives. We must treasure one another and our time and connections, no matter how brief.


    via alessandralee.

    It’s a striking and emotional, encouraging message. But it’s also such a challenge because we can be so easily swept up in the dirty details and downtrodden state of life that we forget to kiss a pillow or take a moment purely for sentiment. Taking joy and deliberately remembering and treasuring a happy time: Is this a thing I am doing to the fullest, or am I always fretting about Apocalypse Yesterday and frittering away precious opportunities for connection and growth? I know my doom-and-gloom, fast-food-is-poison self to be guilty of the latter. This is a thing on which I resolve to work at improvement: accept that Doom I’m always gloomily prophesying is an eventuality and work within my life to make joy and find peace anyway.

    E.E. Cummings Month: Inaugural Edition and an explanation

    July 31, 2010

    Welcome to E.E. Cummings* month.


    via.

    somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
    any experience,your eyes have their silence:
    in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
    or which i cannot touch because they are too near


    your slightest look easily will unclose me
    though i have closed myself as fingers,
    you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
    (touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose


    via.

    or if your wish be to close me, i and
    my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
    as when the heart of this flower imagines
    the snow carefully everywhere descending;


    nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
    the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
    compels me with the color 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 even the rain,has such small hands

    (E.E. Cummings, “somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond.” ** 1931.)

    The last line is my favorite. It is sort of aching and bittersweet because I find it beautiful but also sad in that I’m lonely. But here is why I like it. Drops of rain themselves are so small and simple and ought change nothing but in numbers and with insistence they can unstoppably drench everything around them and produce a deluge: that’s a great metaphor for love, which starts with such a small thing like a smile or a handshake and then increases itself even within minutes to become this powerful force that changes what your world was up until that point. Like rain. Does this make sense? I feel like I might have stopped making sense.

    *I had always been put off by the lowercase “e.e. cummings” that you encounter in anthologies and the like because it seemed a little dramatic and juvenile, kind of put-on, but I’ve recently found that Cummings signed all his work “E.E. Cummings,” and used the capitalized form professionally and with his peers, and that the lowercase with which we are familiar was a result of several misconceptions at the publishing level which were given shockingly wide dissemination even after having been proven false.


    Example of his signature.

    There is a good and thorough story about it here, written by Norman Friedman, a writer, critic, and close friend of Cummings and his common-law wife, Marion Morehouse, which includes specific comments from Ms. Morehouse indicating her opinion that the widespread use of her deceased’s husband’s name in lowercase was inaccurate idiocy and asking her friend to intercede with the publishers to remove factual errors from the preface about him having legally changed his name to “e.e. cummings” and have it capitalized on the spine and jacket as well as within. Mr. Friedman wrote a follow-up article three years later, voicing his distress that the error has not been widely corrected and calling the inaccurate lowercase usage “cutesy-pooh” and “pure nonsense.”


    Does this look like a dude who would go in for “cutesy-pooh” nonsense? No.

    Mr. Friedman also uncovered in the years between the two articles a request from an editor while Cummings was alive asking in what case to set Cummings’ name on a book cover: how should it appear? because he understood the poet to prefer a lack of capitals. Cummings replied, quote, “E.E. Cummings.” Done deal in my book.

    At any rate, I’m so glad to shake off of him the dust of what I had always feared was pretentiousness! So I’m capping his name all month and have retconned*** past lowercase usage into uppercase, is the main thing.

    **Untitled works — and Cummings seldom used titles — are referred to by their opening line.

    ***Retcon: retroactive continuity, a term used mainly in comics and speculative fiction which I explained in better detail in my Music Moment entry on Julie Nunes.

    Music Moment: “Another Believer,” by Rufus Wainwright

    November 18, 2009

    I have so much to say about Rufus and his amazing family (except for that bastard Loudon) that there is simply not time today. Instead, I want to focus on the joyful fun of this song, which was written for the soundtrack to Meet the Robinsons (2007).

    Rufus Wainwright – Another Believer

    It’s been a very, very long time since I kissed anyone, but I suspect it is like riding a bicycle. Not in that you never forget how, but in that you have to go for it or you will tip over and crash. I am not interested in testing that theory just yet, but it is good just to know there is love and romance thriving in the universe.


    Hello, I got something to tell you
    But it’s crazy, I got something to show you
    So give me just one more chance, one more glance
    And I will make of you another believer

    Guess what?
    You got more than you bargained
    Ain’t it crazy?
    You got more than you paid for
    So give me just one more chance, one more glance
    One more hand to hold

    You’ve been on my mind, though it may seem I’m fooling
    Wasting so much time, though it may seem I’m fooling

    What are we gonna do?
    What are we gonna do about it?

    So then, that is all for the moment
    Until next time, until then, do not worry
    And give me just one more chance, one more glance
    And I will make of you, yeah I’m gonna make of you another believer

    You’ve been on my mind, though it may seem I’m fooling
    Wasting so much time, thought it may seem I’m fooling

    What are we gonna do?
    What are we gonna do about it?

    Hello, I got something to tell you
    Hello, I got something to tell you
    You’ve been on my mind, wasting so much time.


    kisses are a better fate
    than wisdom. — E.E. Cummings


    The decision to kiss for the first time is the most crucial in any love story. It changes the relationship of two people much more strongly than even the final surrender; because this kiss already has within it that surrender. — Emil Ludwig


    Never a lip is curved with pain
    That can’t be kissed into smile again. — Bret Harte


    A kiss makes the heart young again and wipes out the years. — Rupert Brooke


    Ancient lovers believed a kiss would literally unite their souls, because the spirit was said to be carried in one’s breath. — Eve Glicksman


    Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves. — Albert Einstein

    Advice: E.E. Cummings Edition

    November 17, 2009

    These are all ghost posts, scheduled well ahead of time. I’m picking up prints from the Camera Center and going to the mall with Miss D today, then scootching on down to C-town to test drive some setups for Thanksgiving with the friendohs and having some time with the Gentleman before he flies to the frozen North with Otis to meet her fam.

    I’m anxious about picking up the pictures. I have to know in advance the photos probably came out awful because it was my first time shooting the Diana. Still … I’m so lame that I have high hopes.

    At the chili cookoff, Miss D and the LBC and I were talking about E.E. Cummings. I tried to remember this quote, but I couldn’t access it in my memory banks (beer may or may not have played a role!) at the time. But I’ve found it now, and I’m going to keep it in mind today as we navigate the mall and its narrow-eyed mannequins.

    “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

    (E.E. Cummings)

    I often find it overwhelming to face an enormous amount of people, but I’m going to soldier through today. It’s as fun as I want to make it, right? Right!