[Spring 2 (1993): 88-92]
In our original outreach efforts to contact those who had already done significant work on Cummings, a number of interesting replies—some exciting, some sad—came back to us. We reached Robert Wegner, for example, and he has agreed to do a piece for us. We also reached Rushworth Kidder, but he is involved now in The Institute for Global Ethics, a non-profit research and educational organization, and is no longer doing journalism and literary / artistic criticism.
But we received word that the following people who had done significant work on Cummings were deceased: Robert Maurer, died c. 1981; Hyatt Waggoner, died c. 1988; Barry Marks, died c. 1989. We would also like to mention the passing more years ago of: Theodore Spencer, Lloyd Frankenberg, and Howard Mumford Jones.
It was when Spencer was advisor for Friedman's honors thesis on Cummings that he gave the young student his first opportunity to meet Cummings during the Fall of 1947, and it was Jones who gave him his first chance to lecture on Cummings at Harvard during the following year. Frankenberg was one of the chief contributors to Cummings' period of popularity during the 1950s, with his book Pleasure Dome and accompanying record album (1949). Friedman recalls meeting him at the Cummingses' apartment in Patchin Place around that time.
But most importantly, we would like to record here the passing of Marion Morehouse Cummings, on May 18,1969, and the memorial service held for her at the Jefferson Market Library, which looms just across from Patchin Place, on June 11, 1969. Friedman and his wife Zelda vividly recall Robert Lowell speaking the eulogy, and the aged Ezra Pound sitting silently among the mourners.
We earnestly invite anyone with news and information about other Cummings scholars-critics-friends-fans to contact us. [end page 88]
From the 25th Anniversary Report (1974) of the Harvard Class of 1949, pp. 506-508:
David Jonathan Grossman
BORN: April 6, 1922.
OFFICE ADDRESS: Publications Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy (5797).
PREPARED AT: Staunton Military Academy, Staunton, Va.
YEARS IN COLLEGE: 1946-1947. DEGREE: L. ès L. (Univ. de Paris), 1950.
MARRIED: Anne-Marie Tschann, Oct. 12, 1945. CHILD: Jerome Louis, Dec. 29, 1953.
OCCUPATION: International civil servant
OFFICES HELD: First vice-chairman, 1966-67, general secretary, 1967-68, Federation of International Civil Servants' Association (FICSA).
MEMBER OF: Société de Linguistique de Paris; Collège de 'Pataphysique.
PUBLICATIONS: Numerous essays; French translations of prose, poetry and plays of E. E. Cummings '15.
In 1947, after reading the Augustan History (about which nobody told me: I had to discover it for myself), I decided that it would be more [end page 89] interesting to watch a world rebuilding than a world on its decline. Accordingly, back I came to Europe (which a few years earlier I had assisted, they tell me, in "liberating"), thus depriving Harvard of its chance to award me an earned degree. Harvard has, I understand, survived, but I have never regretted my choice.
The Sorbonne. A Montparnasse bookstore. A stint on a Guggenheim-financed "little magazine." An office job with the U.S. Air Force in Paris. A short term for the Department of State. And then realization that while it's impossible to improve this universe, one should at least try to do as little harm as one can.
Since then I have never, in the name of liberty, made or dropped a single bomb, atomic or otherwise, nor machine-gunned a single group of Puerto Rican pilgrims. I have never, in the name of equality, helped a single billionaire to avoid paying his taxes, nor for that matter helped to collect them. I have never, in the name of fraternity, prolonged the life of a single terminal patient who was longing but to die.
Post hoc ergo propter hoc, I daresay that my income places me in the bottom 10% of the Class of '49. I have, however, managed to keep a roof over my family's head, and to keep us eating regular.
And at night I sleep well, a dreamless sleep, and awake refreshed "to wash, and dress, and eat, and drink, and look at things, and sit and think, and work—and God knows why," as the feller says. Washing and dressing are neither goats' milk nor Brooks Bros., but eating and drinking remain—a half-century of digestion permitting—quenelles de brochet Nantua and Chablis Premier Cru 1966. Things looked at include Greco's Storm over Toledo, columbines, Alps and a certain person's shoulders. Sitting usually involves a book, and thinking often does, too; the author may be Thucydides or Catullus, Flaubert or Boris Vian, Shakespeare or E. E. Cummings. Work involves the United Nations, and when you consider that from 1918 to 1939, only twenty-one years passed, we're not doing too badly.
I have voted in only two presidential elections: once against a Harvard man, who won, an once against a man from my prep school, who lost. No sense of loyalty.
I believe that Socrates was the moral superior of Adolf Hitler; that [end page 90] Abraham Lincoln was sincere but misguided; that sex is more fun than bowling; that there is, after all, some difference between the later Beethoven quartets and La Marseillaise, that Joe Gould, '11, was a more serious historian than Arthur Schlesinger, '38; that abortion is a sure means of eliminating cancer in the second generation; that divorced priests should be allowed to remarry; that Groucho Marx is a greater menace to society than Karl; that American culture has been on the skids since the mid-thirties; that this is not a major catastrophe; that I have no responsibility for doing anything about it; and that I couldn't if I would.
My motto is from Cummings, '15: "nothing is what particularly matters," which I Latinize e pluribus nihil. [Copyright by the President and Fellows of Harvard College]
The following was added, at our request, by Jerome Grossman, Jon's son, January 7, 1993:
After he wrote this, probably in 1973, Jon went on with his career as head of the FAO Editorial Branch, a typical Jonish job: not very high-ranking, not very pretentious, not very well paid— but everyone in a UN organization wants to publish a book or two, and that's where the organization's reputation is at stake, and a man like Jon might want to preserve it.
Meanwhile, The Enormous Room translation was finally finished and published in 1979, along with 58+58 Poems, both at Bourgois's. The ER was awarded the Prix du meilleur livre étranger, and Jon got the 1980 Prix Halperine Kaminsky, from the Société des Gens de Lettres, for his global Cummings translation work (he was, and remains, the only American ever awarded that prize).
Jon retired from FAO in 1982, after twenty-three years of international service. He elected Gascony as his place of retirement, and lived in a house built by his wife Anne's grandparents at the turn of the century. A pretty obvious choice when one knows Gascony and its food, people, climate, landscapes, and architecture; and a choice that allowed Jon to indulge in unsuspected underlying passions, such as mushroom-catching and orchidaea-raising. [end page 91]
He went on writing about food and poetry and bees; reading about everything; listening to hundreds of miles of magnetic tape on his two Revoxes, and occasionally organizing open-air recorded concerts for the indigenous.... He also kept an eye on his former professional world, as a consultant and editor.
Jon died from a brain hemorrhage on December 4th,1990, after a few days in a hospital where holistic doctors forbade him to smoke.
Sometimes, out of intellectual probity, he was rough and scared many people. But he never knowingly harmed anyone but the willingly harming, because he took no pleasure in others' pains.
[end page 92]
[Spring 2 (1993): 93-97]
We inaugurate this department to keep track of relevant notices, events, announcements, news items, and correspondence concerning Cummings and the Society which have not found a place elsewhere in the Journal. The present Record goes back to the 1970s and represents the gleanings from our files from that date forward.
The New York Sunday News for November 12, 1972, contained the following quote under the heading of "famous American Sayings": "Great men burn bridges before they come to them." It then had a photo of Cummings and a paragraph about him and his career (pp. 2 and 10). The quote, of course, comes from "Jottings" (Wake, 10 ; rpt. in A Miscellany Revised, ed. George J. Firmage, 1965, p. 331).
A notice of Charon's Daughter, by Nancy Cummings de Forêt, is given in Richard R. Lingeman's column, "Book Ends," NYTBR, October 23, 1977, p. 55. He also provides some information about her and the book.
"Where They Lived," by Ellen Hopkins, New York Magazine, March 7, 1983, about the homes of famous New Yorkers, had a photo and a paragraph on Cummings and 4 Patchin Place (p. 45).
NYTBR had a passage from and a notice of Etcetera in the "Noted with Pleasure" column, January 8, 1984.
The NY Sunday Times had a large ad for Bell Communications Research (Bellcore) on September 29, 1985, F29, which read in large letters at the top: "There's an exciting/universe next door;/let's go." No credit was given . (#XIV, 1 X 1  ).
NYTBR for June 15, 1986, had a notice of R. P. Blackmur's Selected Essays and singled out a passage on Cummings as exemplary.
The Harvard Gazette for April 14, 1989, "News and Notes," p. 2, had a photo and caption showing Yasuo Fujitomi giving his collection of [end page 93] Cummings letters to the rare book collection in the Harvard College Library.
We have not recorded the actual dates, but the reciting of Cummings poetry in several movies should be mentioned as occurring something during the late 80s and early 90s: "somewhere i have never traveled (#LVII, W [ViVa], 1931) in Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters, and "anyone lived in a pretty how town" (#29, 50 Poems [l940]) in Barbra Streisand's The Prince of Tides.
During February and March of 1989, John Carlile's adaptation of The Enormous Room was performed by The Next Theatre Co., Evanston, IL. We have the published version and hope to report on it in our next issue.
David Forrest acquired "Larry Wolfe's Official Map of Movie Stars' Homes New York City—Also Stars of Television, Theatre, Soaps, Music, Sports, Dance, Opera and More," which is dated 1991, and it included Cummings and Patchin Place—the only poet, so far as we can tell, accorded this honor (unless he is being seen as a "Theatre" "Star"!?).
Friedman found two greeting cards in The Open Center Book Store, NYC, dated 1991, which contain portions of "i carry your heart" and "yes is a world" (#92, 95 Poems ; #58, No Thanks [l935]).
Audri Wood found a cartoon by Shanahan in The Writer's Magazine, November 1991 "the nightmares of e. e cummings," depicting the poet shivering under the covers in bed, the balloon over his head containing words "Moon! June! Croon! Tune! Spoon! Honeymoon!" It's hard to say whether the intent is to show that Cummings abhorred rhymes or simply that he disliked clichéd language.
Audri also found the following inscription in The Boston Magazine for November 1991: "graves of famous folks"
forest hills cemetery, jamaica plain
moRe famous for fooLing with
punCtuaTion and Grammar thaN
for his pOems
This cambriDge-bOrn writer
became one of tHe most reSPected
literaRy vOiCeS of hiS generation
[end page 94]
Stephen R. Scotti and The Blue Heron Theatre production of his musical, Viva Cummings!, made a successful tour of South America during the Spring of 1992. The show will also be opening on October 22, 1993, at the Israel Horowitz Theatre in Gloucester, MA, through October 31. Call (508) 281-4099 for further information.
Thomas R. Fuld and Newelle J. McDonald were married in NYC at the National Arts Club on May 31, 1992, and their wedding program listed "somewhere i have never travelled" among its readings. Upon inquiry, Tom wrote as follows:
Robert Creeley wrote us on October 26,1992: "A visiting student from [end page 95] Turkey tells me Cummings' 'somewhere i have never travelled' was done by a rock group there in translation and went to the top of the so-called charts."
Helen Vendler reviews Cummings once again, The Yale Review, 80, 3 (1992), 209-21, and seems somewhat less negative than in her previous reviews, The Yale Review, 62,3 (March 1973), 412-19; and NYRB, 27, 1 (Feb. 7, 1980), 10-13.
Roy Rosenstein, Department of Comparative Literature, The American University of Paris, wrote us on March 11, 1993, as follows:
In an article some years ago I had already shown that tmesis is an option only in Portuguese of all the Romance languages today; this time in Brazil I argued that there with De Campos Cummings found an exceptionally responsive language, interpreter and audience. To my class I invited Cleber Teixeira, poet and publisher of Cummings and Campos, and we had several productive sessions comparing Cummings in the two languages. My graduate students gave higher marks to Cummings in [end page 96] English and Portuguese than they did, for example, to Frost in Portuguese or to Cummings in French. The course went rather well, I think, since I was blessed with advanced students in what is the largest, oldest and best graduate English program in Brazil, at UFSC in Florianopolis.
I am reporting all this to you since I hope one day soon to write about my experiences with Cummings, not only at UFSC in Brazil but also at AUP here in Paris.
[end page 97]
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