Here, for example, from William Carlos Williams' Cat:
a yellow gold
washed down with bowl
inside the white
Some of the titles themselves are not only intriguing but funny. Thus: "On First Looking into Clarke’s Larder" by John Keats' Cat. Or: "Meow of Myself" from Leaves of Catnip by Walt Whitman’s Cat. Or "The Emperor of Tunafish" by Wallace Stevens’ Cat. The illustrations, too, are humorous. But of course the main reason I am writing is that I thought you might be interested in what E. E. Cummings’ cat has to say.
and shred onetwothreefourfive chipmunksjustlikethat
there was a handsome puss
[end page 176]
and what I want to know is
how would you like your nails pulled out
Singlehandedly, E. E. Cummings carried the standard of joy in the parade of modern poetry; his poems are exuberant, inventive, simultaneously intimate and expansive. Beneath their clever typographical façade, Cummings' poems do serious work, encouraging the language into new powers of expression. His sonnets, offbeat though they are, are among the best of our century; his love poems are equally distinguished:
This new edition—revised, corrected, and expanded to include all the published poetry—is a songbook of articulate emotion: tuneful, humorous, intent, invigorating.
After this long introduction (which is more like a thank-you note: "thank you for your interest in my interest!") I will, however, try to explain my interest in E. E. Cummings.
I first became acquainted with his poetry at school where the poem "l(a" was printed in my English book. At first, I didn’t quite understand it. But when I realized its meaning, I loved its simplicity, the fine sketch of a tiny scene, which is so beautiful and complete in itself. Cummings’ poetry often reminds me of Japanese haiku, a kind of poem I like very much.
The second time I got into contact with Cummings' poetry was a seminar in the summer of 1997 on Modernist American Poetry! I chose to do my presentation on Cummings since I wanted to know more about this extra-ordinary poet. Soon I was fascinated by his broad interests and abilities— especially the connections between his poetry and the visual arts were interesting to me. However, I must admit that I have not studied Cummings very closely, I’ve only read quite a few of his poems. His topics somehow appeal to me: usually I am not very fond of love poems, but he has written some beautiful ones which not only show the platonic and ideal side of love but also the more daemonic forces like sexuality (there are, I think, only Brecht and Neruda who have written similarly beautiful love poems). Besides the theme of love, I like Cummings' evocations of the changing seasons, which is another area that reminds me of Japanese poetry.
When it came to the topic of my paper, I wanted to compare a poem by Cummings to another poem by somebody else, and in the end I compared Cummings "in Just-" to Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s "The pennycandystore beyond the El." The result was the paper I once sent you. (Sending it to the Cummings Society was, by the way, meant as some kind of 'revenge': I was angry that I had spent so much time working out my thesis and I did not get the recognition / criticism I expected).
However, it has been quite a while since I wrote my paper and after re-reading it today, I think that there are definitely some changes to be made. At the moment I do not have the time and the 'état d’âme' to do so, but I will do it one day and maybe I’ll send it to you again. (There will be a seminar on typography in Berlin next summer and, who knows, I might do some work on Cummings . . .).
I am interested in the work of the E.E. Cummings Society and I’d be thankful about information on how to join it. Thank you very much for your kindness and patience.
Isabel Kranz [end page
While it may be a good thing to have The Enormous Room more widely available through the Penguin 1999 edition, it is a shame that Samuel Hynes used the Modern Library 1934 text. His "Note on the Text" is a bit sly. He begins: "Three principal editions of The Enormous Room were published during Cummings’s lifetime" and then goes on to indicate that of these three, "the Modern Library edition is clearly preferable." It may well be the best of the three but this particular game is rigged. If one limits the choice to those published in Cummings’s lifetime, one must ignore the latter magnificent work of George Firmage and the far superior Liveright edition. I realize that Penguin couldn’t publish the Firmage text of a competing publisher; I suppose it is unrealistic to ask Hynes to mention this other, competing text. Hynes certainly could not make an argument that the Modern Library text is better. Firmage’s "Afterword" in the Liveright edition clearly supports the superiority of his text over the other three including the Modern Library edition. So Hynes does have a major problem. I don’t think his introduction or glossary compensate at all for the inferior text he uses. The Firmage / Liveright edition is simply more "Cummingsesque." While I am pleased that the Penguin people think there are enough readers out there to make it worth their while again to publish The Enormous Room, still I would like to put a little sticker on all copies of their edition saying, "Buy the best; buy Liveright!"
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