New Year’s Resolution

I am resolved to learn more about E. E. Cummings and his wonderful poetry. And I urge you to do the same!

In the introduction to New Poems published in 1938, Cummings articulated a philosophy that he stuck to all his life:

“We can never be born enough. We are human beings;for whom birth is a supremely welcome mystery ,the mystery of growing:the mystery which happens only and whenever we are faithful to ourselves.”

Edward Estlin Cummings (1894-1962), usually known as E. E. Cummings, with the abbreviated form of his name often written by others in lowercase letters as e. e. cummings (in the style of some of his poems), was an American writer and poet whose work includes some 2,900 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays and several essays.

The authoritative edition of his poetry is the two-volume Complete Poems edited by George James Firmage (Granada, 1981). For the very first time it brought together all of the poems published or designated for publication by Cummings in his lifetime. They were all corrected in line with the original manuscript versions.

Many younger people – especially non-Americans – discovered Cummings through the movie Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), directed by Woody Allen. One of the characters reads to the woman he has fallen in love with the poem whose first verse is:

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

Cummings’ poetry has its difficulties, especially his idiosyncratic punctuation and spelling. But he is worth the effort and the world looks different as a result. Here is one from 95 Poems (1958) which, perhaps, inaugurated that year’s New Year:

stand with your lover on the ending earth—

and while a(huge which by which huger than
huge)whoing sea leaps to greenly hurl snow

suppose we could not love,dear;imagine

ourselves like living neither nor dead these
(or many thousand hearts which don’t and dream
or many million minds which sleep and move)
blind sands,at pitiless the mercy of

time time time time time

—how fortunate are you and i,whose home
is timelessness:we who have wandered down
from fragrant mountains of eternal now

to frolic in such mysteries as birth
and death a day(or maybe even less)


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