|Tom is a ballet scenario based on Harriet Beecher Stowe's
Uncle Tom's Cabin. Published by Arrow Editions in 1935, the
book consists of Cummings' "synopsis" (pp. 7-9) and his description of the
four episodes of the ballet (pp. 10-37). The frontispiece is by Ben Shahn.
Though David Diamond wrote the music for it, the ballet
remained unperformed until high school student Michelle Skiba choreographed
and directed a performance in May 2015. Richard S.
Kennedy tells the story of the ballet's inception, scoring, and non-performance
in chapter 15 of Dreams in the Mirror. The ballet has been re-published
in Three Plays and A Ballet (ed. George J. Firmage, New York: October
House, 1967) and more recently in The Theatre of E. E. Cummings (ed.
George J. Firmage, New York: Liveright, 2013).
In the "News, Notes, Correspondence" section of Spring 11 (2002), we published the dust jacket blurb from the first publication of Tom:
[John T.] Ordeman sent us the following: "Tom, the book Cummings wrote for a ballet based on Uncle Tom's Cabin, which has never been produced, was published in 1935 in an edition of 1500 copies. As the paper of the dust wrapper has become brittle with age, the book is rarely seen with its wrapper. Few people have, therefore, had an opportunity to read the interesting text printed on the inner flap of the wrapper, a text which, if not written by Cummings, was certainly used with his knowledge and approval. This is that text":
TOMThis latest work of Cummings will be welcomed, by admirers of The Enormous Room, as a transcendental commentary on Jean le Nègre. Whoever is irritated by poetry will be irritated anew. Anyone who reads HIM will appreciate this second (and equally original) contribution to theater; anyone who saw the play will eagerly await this ballet’s production. The starting point of EIMI immediately suggests Tom: in each case, a humanitarian idée fixe serves as the springboard for a plunge into actuality. Here, again, a poet speaks; here again, a partial and cowardly epoch is fearlessly and completely challenged. Vividly (as the spectacle of man's imperfection becomes the drama of man's salvation through imperfection) we are reminded of two lines from No Thanks—
By E. E. Cummings
"this mind made war
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