E.E. Cummings: Selected Poems – Edited by Richard S. Kennedy


e.e. cummings (as he preferred to be known, with no caps) is probably one of my favourite poets.  But, I’ve really only read around 10 of his poems on the internet or in various school settings.  My favourite poem of all time is “somewhere I have never traveled, gladly beyond” (and I especially love it when Ben Whishaw reads it in The Hour, hello melting ovaries).

He certainly has some strange periods of poetry; editor Richard S. Kennedy does a good job of dividing the poems into chapters depending on theme or influence.  cummings went through a bit of a cubism period and some of those poems aren’t even in English or any other discernible language.  Other poems he manipulates language and spelling conventions for the sake of rhyme to get a point across.  I read this book of poems last night lying on my bed with my boyfriend, and I chose to read a few poems or lines out loud while he read Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods.  He had only ever read cummings in a high school setting, and poetry is a completely different experience outside of school.

“Somewhere I have never traveled, gladly beyond” was also the first cummings poem I recall reading (though gain, perhaps in an early grade I had studied a poem or two and it just didn’t resonate at the time).  My favourite teacher of all time, my grade twelve English teacher, had the poem blown up to a poster size and it was hanging on the door.  It didn’t have any attribution to an author so I assumed this beautiful piece of work was written by my teacher.  I asked him about it one day and he was like “god no, that’s an ee cummings poem” and I was like “who’s that” and he said “A poet who didn’t use capital letters” and that was that.

I rediscovered the poem after watching The Hour and Ben Whishaw’s character recites the closing stanza to Romola Garai’s character.  When I came across it in the book, I re-remembered how much I love it and read it out loud to my boyfriend.  Poetry is an oral tradition, and deserves to be read out loud.  If I had a better reading voice, I would read poems out loud more often, but I think my voice is gross, monotonous, and craggly and doesn’t do justice to beautiful words.

Rather than quote my favourite poem for you all over again, I am going to put below a poem I had not read before reading this book, as it is now certainly up there with my favourite cummings poems:

all nearness pauses, while a star can grow

all distance breathes a final dream of bels;
perfectly outlined against afterglow
are all amazing the and peaceful hills

(not where not here but neither’s blue most both)

and history, immeasurably is
wealthier by a single sweet day’s death:
as not imagined secrecies comprise

goldenly huge whole the up floating moon.

TIme’s a strange fellow:
more he gives than takes
(and he takes all)nor any marvel finds
quite disappearance but some keener makes
losing, gaining
-love! if a world ends

more than all world’s begin to(see?)begin

Books read: 20


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