Poetry Wednesday: e. e. cummings

I liked sharing my favorite poems during National Poetry Month this past April, so I thought I’d keep going until the stats start dropping to zero around here on Wednesdays.

I love e.e. cummings.  He plays on the page with pain and joy and sex and sarcasm and love so deeply set its expression brings tears.  The placement of each word is so important, the spaces, or lack, expressing just as much—or as little—as the words themselves.*

Everyone knows “i carry your heart,” and despite its recent Hollywood-inspired use in every wedding, graduation, bat mitzvah, and retirement party I’ve attended in the past couple years, I’ll freely admit that I get a lump in my throat every single time I read it, which is why I rarely try to read it out loud. I don’t think it should be read out loud—not just because of the phrases-within-phrases that English speech can’t adequately parse, but because this kind of music wasn’t meant to be understood by external ears.

But, having said all that, my first encounter with mr. cummings was his poem,  “If.”    This was the poem that made me search for more of his work, because I suspected (hoped, knew) they’d speak to me, too.

My daughter of the lovely freckles hadn’t been born yet, but the rest still holds true:

I still cling to this on certain days, when fairness  seems like the curse of hope.  It reminds me, gently, that life isn’t perfect for a perfectly good reason.

And because I simply can’t resist:

And there I go.  Would you please excuse me for a minute?  I  need a tissue . . .


*Placements and spaces that WordPress chooses to ignore.  Since my archaic html skillz aren’t up to fixing this in the time and patience I have, I chose to bypass the headache with images.  It’s not a graceful solution, perhaps, but it works.


17 thoughts on “Poetry Wednesday: e. e. cummings

  1. I’ve had the same trouble with WordPress! I formatted something three times, and it kept saying “Whoops! You’ve made too much space in there – never mind, you’ll get used to the idea of writing words soon. Let me fix all that blankness” and then completely stuffing up what I was trying to do!

    And thank you, I like the poems you put up ^_^

    • Thanks, Julia—I’m glad to know it’s not just me! I love WordPress, usually, but sometimes it tries to help too much!

      And I’m glad you like the poems!

  2. I really enjoy ee cummings work. “Anyone lived in a pretty how town” is one of my favorites. I’m glad I happened upon this tonight. Good reading.

    • Thanks, John.

      Sun moon stars rain. I always felt sorry for noone. . .

      I like “Where’s Madge, then?” too: beauty makes terms / with time and his worms

  3. I’m always amazed at the way a carefully crafted word or phrase can seep into your being and steep in your brain long after the initial reading. In general, I’m an internalizer when it comes to reading. (I never liked being read to, much prefer to absorb the picture the words frame directly from the page.) There are, however some pieces that are meant for the ear, in which case, I read them aloud. To myself.

    • I agree with you, there. I have problems with books on tape, though I love radio plays.

      But I prefer to listen to Shakespeare’s sonnets, for some reason. And Shel Silverstein’s stuff is definitely meant to be read aloud, or maybe sung.

  4. Hi Sarah,
    I’m so glad I finally made it over here after months of reading your intriguing comments at other blogs (and by intriguing I mean, you took the words right out of my mouth).

    I live for poetry, but believe it or not, never felt much of anything for e.e. cummings. Thank you for presenting these poems- I was familiar with only one- and I think that next time I see cummings coming my way on a page along with all the uncapitalized letters, I won’t be so quick to run away. Thank you.

    p.s. Does posting poetry really decrease your page views? Shoot, my blog is screwed big time; I stuff it down throats.

    • Hi, Liz! Welcome to my odd little sandbox!

      It’s okay if you don’t like my favorites—poetry is as subjective as music. Who’s your favorite?

      p.s. I don’t know yet—guess I’ll find out!

      • Thanks for the welcome, Sarah. I can’t give you a favorite: I’m a serial monogamist at best, a poetry slut at worst.
        But I do have a few reliables, the ones to whom I always turn to still my mind and electrify my heart. Mary Oliver, Tony Hoagland, Czeslaw Milosz, Lisel Mueller, Billy Collins, and Linda Pastan.

        Eclectic, and it pains me to make a list because I hate to think of the beloveds I’ve left out. Do you have a favorite? (is it e.e.?)

        • Oh, I like Mary Oliver, and I’ve read some Milosz. I don’t recognize the others, which means I get to explore!

          I don’t really have a single favorite poet, either—more like many different favorite lines and stanzas. Though I’m very fond of “Jabberwocky,” which probably says too much about my usual state of mind.

          If you search for “National Poetry Month” here, you’ll get a sample of the kinds of things I like enough to share.

  5. Although I was obsessed with poetry when I was younger, I have to admit I don’t read much of it any more. And e.e. cummings was always one of my favorites. The second poem you posted here was at the top of my list. I don’t recall the first one, but I think I appreciate what it’s saying even more at this age than I would have then.

    I broke down and sold a lot of books at this week’s garage sale, but I’m pretty sure I kept all my books of poetry. Just in case. And now you’ve given me the bug to dig them out and read them again. Thank you.

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