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What If A Much Of A Which:

People often spell my last name with a “g” in it – cummings. And, on occasion, students have asked, “Are you related to e.e. cummings?” Well, I’m not related, and I spell my name without a “g,” though I wouldn’t mind being a relative of the poet. At least I wish I could have known him. Even though it is somewhat unfashionable in literary circles to admit that you admire his poetry (it is often dismissed as “sophomoric” or “adolescent romanticism” or “unsophisticated”), nevertheless, I can’t help but enjoy his work, year after year. It is true that cummings was a perennial romantic:

Now I love you and you love me

And books are shuter than books can be

And he did glorify love above all else in life:

Love was and shall

Be this only truth.

It is also true that some of his poems are merely clever or unusual because of his unique spelling and punctuation, and the orthographic placement of his lines (as in this “conversation”):

o

sure) but

nobody unders (no

but rully yes i

know) but what it comes

to) listen you don’t have to

i mean Reely) but (no listen don’t

And often he is simply having a rollickingly good time as in the following poem – I offer only the first stanza – and it gets better and funnier as it goes…

May I feel said he

(I’ll squeal said she

Just once said he)

It’s fun said she…

And sometimes his political anger shows as in poems such as “The Cambridge Ladies” or “Next to Of Course God America” or in this two-line poem:

A politician is an arse upon

Which everyone has sat except a man.

These poems and hundreds of others are entertaining, often thought-provoking, and are always reflective of a man thoroughly loving language and the many possibilities language offers. Sometimes, for example, he will adopt an almost nursery rhyme style of children’s poems in which to express his romantic vision of life, as in

What if a much of a which of a wind

Gives truth to summer’s lie;

Bloodies with dizzying leaves the sun

And yanks immortal stars awry?

He asks more such apocalyptic questions:

What if a keen of a lean wind flays

Screaming hills with sleet and snow (?)

And after these wild questions he concludes:

All nothing’s only our hugest home;

The most we die, the more we live.

But beyond the stylistic signature and the unmistakable voice:

… Anyone lived in a pretty how town

… Who knows if the moon’s

A balloon,

… Somewhere I have never traveled…

Beyond the clever techniques and linguistic punctuation innovations, beyond all this is a passionate, original voice which affords its readers a lifetime of joy. I keep cummings close by my bedroom chair and often read a poem or two before going to sleep. Somehow his vision of the world and its possibilities is a unique way to transition from the end of daytime hopes and dreams to the night and sleep-time world where our dreams operate uninhibited and free from convention. In fact, it was convention, people “who live in furnished souls,” which was cummings’ sworn enemy. Convention, he believed, stifles passion, and passion is where and how life is fully lived. This passion is expressed with extraordinary sensitivity in his tribute to his father, which, in a sense, since he wrote it, is a tribute to the poet himself… The poem begins:

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

And the poem, a rather long one, ends with these lines which are really an epitaph to both the father and his son, the poet:

Because my father lived his soul

Love is the whole and more than all.

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