Tuesday, October 14, 2008

e. e. cummings scorning the pomp of must and shall

For e. e. cummings, on his birthday:

my father moved through dooms of love
through sames of am through haves of give,
singing each morning out of each night
my father moved through depths of height

this motionless forgetful where
turned at his glance to shining here;
that if(so timid air is firm)
under his eyes would stir and squirm

newly as from unburied which
floats the first who,his april touch
drove sleeping selves to swarm their fates
woke dreamers to their ghostly roots

and should some why completely weep
my father's fingers brought her sleep:
vainly no smallest voice might cry
for he could feel the mountains grow.

Lifting the valleys of the sea
my father moved through griefs of joy;
praising a forehead called the moon
singing desire into begin

joy was his song and joy so pure
a heart of star by him could steer
and pure so now and now so yes
the wrists of twilight would rejoice

keen as midsummer's keen beyond
conceiving mind of sun will stand,
so strictly(over utmost him
so hugely) stood my father's dream

his flesh was flesh his blood was blood:
no hungry man but wished him food;
no cripple wouldn't creep one mile
uphill to only see him smile.

Scorning the Pomp of must and shall
my father moved through dooms of feel;
his anger was as right as rain
his pity was as green as grain

septembering arms of year extend
yes humbly wealth to foe and friend
than he to foolish and to wise
offered immeasurable is

proudly and(by octobering flame
beckoned)as earth will downward climb,
so naked for immortal work
his shoulders marched against the dark

his sorrow was as true as bread:
no liar looked him in the head;
if every friend became his foe
he'd laugh and build a world with snow.

My father moved through theys of we,
singing each new leaf out of each tree
(and every child was sure that spring
danced when she heard my father sing)

then let men kill which cannot share,
let blood and flesh be mud and mire,
scheming imagine,passion willed,
freedom a drug that's bought and sold

giving to steal and cruel kind,
a heart to fear,to doubt a mind,
to differ a disease of same,
conform the pinnacle of am

though dull were all we taste as bright,
bitter all utterly things sweet,
maggoty minus and dumb death
all we inherit,all bequeath

and nothing quite so least as truth
--i say though hate were why men breathe--
because my Father lived his soul
love is the whole and more than all

And here is a performance piece, by Lila Sakura,
of cummings "Pity this busy monster, manunkind",
that perfectly captures, um, today.



Charles Gramlich said...

That peformance piece is rather freaky. Captures chaos pretty well. Great poem.

Michael Dylan Welch said...

Just a quick note to suggest that E. E. Cummings' name be treated with the normal capitals. The lowercasing of his name was just something that his book designers did -- not Cummings himself. The policy and practice of the E. E. Cummings Society (I'm a longtime contributing editor to its journal Spring), Liveright (Cummings' publisher), and George Firmage (Cummings' literary executor, although recently deceased himself) is to treat the poet's name with initial capitals. Despite popular practice and perception, lowercasing his name is simply incorrect. For more information, please visit the definitive articles on the subject at http://www.gvsu.edu/english/cummings/caps.htm and http://www.gvsu.edu/english/cummings/caps2.html.

The myth of lowercasing E. E. Cummings' name is not unlike the myth of 5-7-5 syllables for English-language haiku. Too many people, even well-meaning poets and textbooks, have borrowed the number without thinking about what the number is counting. Yet people cling to their beliefs in odd ways, and perhaps lowercasing Cummings' name is similar. Or in some cases, they simply have heard anything to counter their beliefs. Please give the two essays I linked to a good read and give them a chance to shift your world just a little bit.

Michael Dylan Welch

Michael Dylan Welch said...

P.S. I enjoy reading your blog, Don!

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Glad you enjoyed the piece ... highlights some aspects of the poem nicely.

Michael, good to hear from you and thanks very much for this vital info. I will definitely head off to read the articles and will correct the errors once schooled. In fact this may be something to do a mid-week posting on as popular perception is, indeed, that all is lowercase. If I can help get the word out to even a few folks it has to be a help.

Very glad you like the blog ... your p.s. lifted me up.


Michael Dylan Welch said...

Thanks for the comment, Don. There's a typo in my previous post. I meant to say "they simply HAVEN'T heard anything to counter their beliefs."

As for Cummings, his typographical and syntactical peculiarities came naturally to him. His tricks are very inventive, but they're not just tricks. Underneath them are some very beautiful love or nature poems, many many sonnets, and beautiful poems on individuality or valuing childlike innocence and other virtues. There's a lot of tradition under that innovation.


Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Thanks for the further info. Cummings is one of the poets that drew me to poetry when very young, I've read and cherish the complete poems. At the library where I work, we've just started a poetry discussion group and will be doing Cummings next month. We've used the incorrect lower spelling and I can't wait to share your info with the group.

Read your very moving haiku this morning on f/k/a.