|Pound / Cummings: The
Correspondence of Ezra Pound and E. E. Cummings
Ed. Barry Ahearn. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1996.
Sometime in 1914, S. Foster Damon loaned a copy
of Ezra Pound's anthology Des
Imagistes to Cummings (Kennedy, Dreams 78-79). Around
this time, too, Cummings acquired a copy of Pound's Ripostes
(1912, 1913). Both of these volumes contain "The Return," a poem that immediately
impressed the younger poet. Even as late as the mid-1950s, Cummings still
viewed his early encounter with "The Return" as a breakthrough moment,
writing in his notes that the poem "made me(for better or worse)the writer
I am today." He was impressed by the poem's modern treatment of a classical
subject, but he noted further that the "inaudible poem--the visual poem,the
poem for not ears but Eye--moved me more" (qtd. in Kennedy 106).
Cummings first met Pound in July of 1921. Two
years later, Cummings wrote to his mother: "I have for some years been
an admirer of Pound's poetry:personally,he sometimes gives me a FatherComplex"
(Selected Letters 104). In that same year,
Scofield Thayer, no great fan of Pound's poetry, reported in a letter that
"Cummings . . . considers Pound mad— 'getting more Idaho day by day' "
(qtd. in Sutton 264). As Pound grew more fanatical, Cummings always tried
to separate the failings of the man from the virtues of the poet. In 1957
Cummings wrote to Charles Norman that "not EEC but EP is the authentic 'innovator';the
true trailblazer of an epoch . . . --nor shall I ever forget the thrill
I experienced on first reading "The Return' " (Selected Letters 241). After meeting the raving
Pound on his visit to the U.S. in 1939, Cummings wrote in his notebooks
that there seemed to be two Pounds: the poet "whom M[arion] and I met in
Paris;to whom Scofield Thayer years before that,introduced me—VS an incoherent
bore . . . from whom,after many efforts to make him human,M & I ran away(leaving
NY)" (quoted in Sawyer-Lauçanno 464). Cummings' later letters to
Pound are often slyly subversive attempts to make Pound human. (See Webster
- Dupee, F. W. and George Stade, eds. Selected Letters of E. E. Cummings. New
York: HBJ, 1969.
- Rosenblitt, J. Alison. E. E. Cummings' Modernism and
the Classics: Each Imperishable Stanza. Oxford / New York: Oxford
- ---. "Pretentious Scansion, Fascist Aesthetics, and a
Father-complex for Joyce: E. E. Cummings on Sapphics and Ezra Pound."
Cambridge Classical Journal 59 (December 2013): 178-198.
- Webster, Michael. "Pound Teaching Cummings, Cummings Teaching
Pound." Ezra Pound and Education. Eds. Steven Yao and Michael Coyle.
Orono, ME: National Poetry Foundation, 2012. 47-66.
Notes: Below are a few additions and corrections to Barry Ahearn's
almost uniformly excellent notes.
(22-24) Aragons bolcheviko poEM / Aragon's Red Front --Cummings
translated this poem as a favor to Louis Aragon
for helping him with a visa and introductions
for his trip to the Soviet Union, chronicled
(1933). Charles Norman quotes Cummings as saying
that the translation was undertaken "as a friendly
gesture of farewell" (256). In EIMI, Cummings comments upon
the poem while translating it (145-46 / 142-3). Aragon's poem and Cummings'
translation appear on facing pages in the Complete Poems
(24 / 25) Jacobean brow / S. A. Jacobs = Samuel Aiwaz Jacobs
(1890–1971), Cummings' personal typesetter. For more
on Jacobs and Cummings, see the headnote
to ViVa, Walker Rumble's short piece "Reclaiming S. A. Jacobs: Polytype, Golden Eagle, and Typographic
Modernism" as well as
Rumble's recent article from Spring
"The Persian Typesetter: S. A. Jacobs, E. E. Cummings, and
the Golden Eagle Press."
See also Michael Webster's "An Old Door, Cummings' Personal
Printer, and W [ViVa]" at the EEC Society Blog.
(42) "Thumbs Up" = A musical revue in two acts, with music by James
Hanley and Henry Sullivan, book by Harold Atteridge, Alan Baxter, and H.
I. Phillips and lyrics by Earle Crooker and Ballard MacDonald, with additional
music by Vernon Duke, Gerald Marks and Steve Child and additional lyrics by
Vernon Duke, Ira Gershwin, Karl Stark, Jean Herbert, James Hanley, John Murray
Anderson, and Irving Caesar (IBDB). Brooks
Atkinson's New York Times review of the show notes that "the entire
production [was] directed and devised by John Murrary Anderson." Atkinson's
review begins: "In honor of the end of the year and the depression, Eddie
Dowling [the producer] has recently been assembling one of those handsome
revue circuses, Thumbs Up! which was put on at the St. James last evening.
It is so good-looking and it is played with such spirit that you are surprised
to discover that it does not live up to the promise of the names in the program."
Atkinson mentions no anti-Semitic or "anticommunist skit," noting only the
matierial's "lack of taste," "sketches of no great brilliance," and "humorless
production numbers" (24). Among the tunes in the show were "Zing, Went the
Strings of My Heart" and "Autumn in New York."
(42) Paul Draper = dancer who is the subject of Cummings' poem "floatfloafloflf"
(CP 431). Brooks Atkinson said of his perfomance in Thumbs Up: "Paul
Draper transmutes tap-dancing into elaborate patterns of story-telling and
imagery" (24). In the 1920s, Cummings had a brief affair with his mother Muriel Draper (Kennedy, Dreams
273). Cummings' book EIMI
caused many of his leftist friends to break with him, including Muriel Draper
(Kennedy, Dreams 360-361). Ruth Draper (1884-1956) was a brilliant
monologuist and pioneer of the one-woman show.
(42) hay shatch should read "hay shatoh" [i.e., "he has a chateau"].
And unless Cummings is making some sort of dental pun, for Cariolanus
read "Coriolanus." [Cf. Dupee and Stade, Selected
(47) For conceive a man,should have have anything read "conceive
a man,should he have anything."
(59) The quote comes from a
footnote in Flammarion's text (529).
(65) damn it all, 56 worth more than the prix nobel —Pound
refers to poem #56 in No Thanks, "this mind made war" (CP 440-41).
Pound assumes that he is the subject of the poem extolling "this self with
life / this poet." Cummings does not contradict him.
(69) Doomer Fees = "Doom et fils" or "Doom and son."
Here are some additional notes to the poems and prose passages mentioned
by Cummings from Pound's Active Anthology:
179-181 = A passage from the "June 8" chapter of EIMI beginning "O have you seen a prophylactic
station?" (EIMI 366-368 / 351-353). (While Cummings is waiting for
his ship to leave Odessa, an enthusiastic American woman gushes about the
Soviet Union's efforts to reform (On pages 173-178, the Active Anthology
also reprints a passage from the "June 4" chapter EIMI beginning "soon rain" (EIMI 314-317
/ 304-307). (The passage narrates Cummings' visit to his Russian teacher's
mother.) The Active Anthology also reprints Cummings' translation
of Louis Aragon's "The Red Front" (157-169). (Pound gives his reasons for
wanting to publish the translation on pages 22-24. See also Ahearn's note
on page 23.)
45 = William Carlos Williams, "The Red Wheelbarrow." In a 1951
letter to his daughter Nancy, Cummings writes that "the only poem of Doctor
WCWilliams . . . which ever truly pleased me as a poem should(from finish
to start and vv)is one affectionately concerning a red wh-b" (Letters 214).
185-6 = Ernest Hemingway, "They All Made Peace--What Is Peace?"
The poem is a satrical look at the negotiators at the the Peace Conference
of Lausanne, 1922-1923, convened to rewrite the Treaty of Sèvres, which
partitioned the Ottoman Empire after World War I. Of all the characters at
the conference, perhaps Mussolini (who Hemingway says, had "his picture taken
reading a book upside down") comes in for the most ridicule.
189-209 = Marianne Moore, "Camellia Sabina" (Poems 201-203),
"The Jerboa" (Poems 190-194), "The Plumet Basilisk" (Poems
196-200), "No Swan So Fine" (Poems 189), and "The Steeplejack" (Poems
(70) the lucid movements of the royal yacht upon the learned scenery
of Egypt --from Marianne Moore's poem "Novices" (Poems 152), first
published in The Dial 74 (Feb. 1924) and reprinted in Observations.
(See Becoming Marianne Moore 113-114, 278-279.)
the shadows of the Alps / imprisoning in their folds like flies in amber
the rhythms of the skating-rink --from Marianne Moore's poem "Snakes,
Mongooses, Snake-Charmers, and the Like" (Poems 148), first published
1.3 (Jan 1922) and reprinted in Observations. (See Becoming Marianne
Moore 111, 274.)
Notty = Stanley Nott, British publisher. (See Ahearn's note on
a pub'r/ on page 48.)
(76) Prof Chas Barbe announces war in Scribner's = Prof. Charles A. Beard.
Most likely, Cummings refers to Beard's article "National Politics and the
War" [Scribner’s Magazine (Feb. 1935): 70]. Historian David S. Brown
writes: “Among his efforts to keep . . . wars at bay, Beard wrote the "Declaration
of Policy" for American Neutrality Inc., a national organization headquartered
in Washington, DC. This statement pledged the organization to 'maintain
a staff for the constant study of pro-war propaganda' and proposed measures
to prevent 'Government looking in the direction of war' " (199, note 18).
Jacobs = Samuel Aiwaz Jacobs
(1890–1971), Cummings' personal typesetter. (See the note
above to pages 24 / 25.)
(156) camp mil ser should read "comp mil ser" [i.e., "compulsory
military service"]. [Cf. Dupee and Stade Selected
(214) late Jz —Ahearn speculates that Pound refers to Henry
James, but a more likely candidate would be the recently deceased James
Joyce, one of the four "men of 1914" who attempted to "write frankly what
they thought." When Pound writes that "fer over 20 yr. noWHERE that 4 did
or cd/ -," he apparently refers to the modernists' difficulty in publishing
in establishment venues, most notably his own exclusion from the Quarterly
Review after his association with Blast (cf. Materer 216-219).
Pound "promoted" Cummings to this group when he declared that EIMI
was the "3rd of 3 large vols" (P/C 176). (The first two volumes are Joyce's
Ulysses and Wyndham Lewis' Apes of God.) Pound attempts to clarify
his comment on Cummings' promotion in a following letter, where he says that
Cummings is now "the ever so slightly . . . junior" member of the "once quadrumvirate"
[Joyce, Pound, Eliot, Lewis] men of 1914, a group which has now been reduced
to "3 items . . . the oirish item [Joyce] having passed on" (P/C 217).
(264) teacher @ Haaavud Ahearn’s note is in error. The back
flap of the dust jacket to XAIPE (1950) reads: "E. E. Cummings was
born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1894, the son of a teacher at Harvard."
Cummings' father taught Sociology at Harvard from 1891 to 1900 (Kennedy
13-14; Sawyer-Lauçanno 3, 11-12).
(296) the enclosed clipping —no doubt Harvey Breit's interview
of Cummings, published in the New York Times Book Review, December
31, 1950. The quote is KOrekt —The relevant portion of Breit's
interview is as follows:
Mr. Cummings, thinking on the question of belief, said, as he
wandered about his room: "Pound once wrote a magnificent thing. 'What matters
is not the idea a man holds, but the depth at which he holds it'."
The interview is reprinted in Breit's The Writer Observed.
(309) Old Bridge = Cummings probably refers to Florence's Ponte
Vecchio rather than Venice’s “Bridge of Sighs.” Cummings refers to the
crocodile atop the column in St. Mark's square in Venice in "MEMORABILIA":
"believe // thou me cocodrillo— // mine eyes have seen / the glory of //
the coming of / the Americans" (CP 254).
(329) Pound,pound,pound While it is true that a later section
of this poem (not sent by Cummings to Pound) parodies Tennyson's "Tears,
Idle Tears" (1847), this section parodies Tennyson's "Break, Break, Break"
(1842). Later strophes parody T. S. Eliot's "Sweeney Among the Nightingales"
(1919), and John Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale" (1819). The longer version
of the poem can be found at CP 987. The cogent corona refers to Pound’s
typewriter. (In the version given in Complete Poems, this line reads
"on thy cold grey corona oh P.") For a discussion of this poem as forming
part of a Waste Land parody, see "Tears Eliot" in Alison Rosenblitt's
E. E. Cummings' Modernism and the Classics (215-222).
(363) as whoosis said to Mrs. Barbauld: sieze the damn thing and
wring itz neKK. Ahearn directs the reader to letter 240 (P/C 266-267),
where he correctly notes that Pound refers to a poem by John Aikin (1747-1822)
addressed to his sister, Anna Letitia Barbauld (1743-1825): "Seize, seize
the lyre! resume the lofty strain!" However, Pound also refers to a line
from Paul Verlaine's "Art Poétique" (1874, 1884): "Prends l’éloquence
et tords-lui son cou!" ["Grab eloquence and wring its neck!"].
(367) myKuntry tis of Lydia pink HAM—Pound refers to lines
from two Cummings poems: "next to of course god america i" (CP 267) ["my
/ country 'tis of centuries come and go / and are no more what of it we
should worry"] and "Poem, Or Beauty Hurts Mr. Vinal" (CP 228) ["my country,'tis
of // you,land of the Cluett / Shirt Boston Garter . . . / of you i / sing:land
of Abraham Lincoln and Lydia E. Pinkham"].
(367) with a mu fer a upSilon Ahearn’s note says that "in later
editions of the anthology, the mu was replaced by a phi" (P/C 368). More
likely, the mu [ μ ] had been replaced by an upsilon [ υ ]. In a successful
effort to dodge the censors, Cummings wrote "φυκ" [phi, upsilon, kappa]
for "fuck" in line 23 of "Jehovah buried,Satan dead" (CP 438; cf. P/C 54-55,
66). More recent editions simply print the Anglo-Saxon obscenity.
(409) on him they shat / they shot encore —Pound quotes (with
one orthographical variation) lines 9-10 of "this mind made war" (CP 440-41):
on him they shat
In letter 33 (28 April 1935) Pound asserts that he is the subject
of the poem (cf. P/C 65). On the next page he asks for permission to reprint
the two lines in Charles Norman's Ezra Pound, but I cannot find
them quoted in that book. In his reply, Cummings does not refer to Pound's
they shat encore
he laughed and spat
(this life could dare
- Ahearn, Barry, ed. Pound / Cummings: The Correspondence of
Ezra Pound and E. E. Cummings. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1996. Abbreviated
- Atkinson, Brooks. "Thumbs Up, a Revue, Is Staged by Eddie Dowling
at the St. James." ProQuest Historical Newspapers. New York Times (28
Dec. 1934): 24. Web.
- Breit, Harvey. "E. E. CUMMINGS." New York Times Book Review
(31 Dec. 1950). Rpt. in The Writer Observed. Cleveland and New York:
World Publishing, 1956. 159-161.
- Brown, David S. Beyond the Frontier: The Midwestern Voice in
American Historical Writing. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2009.
- Cummings, E. E. Complete Poems, 1904-1962. Ed George
J. Firmage. New York: Liveright, 1994. Abbreviated CP.
- ---. EIMI: A Journey Through Soviet Russia.
1933. Ed. George James Firmage. New York: Liveright, 2007.
- ---. EIMI.
New York: Covici, Friede, 1933.
Reprinted. New York:
William Sloane, 1949. Reprinted with an introduction
by EEC, New York: Grove Press, 1958.
- ---. XAIPE: seventy one poems. New York: Oxford UP, 1950.
- Dupee, F. W. and George Stade, eds. Selected
Letters of E. E. Cummings. New York: HBJ, 1969.
- Kennedy, Richard S. Dreams in the Mirror: A Biography of
E. E. Cummings. New York: Liveright, 1980.
- Materer, Timothy. Vortex: Pound, Eliot, Lewis. Ithaca:
Cornell UP, 1979.
- Moore, Marianne. The Poems of Marianne Moore. Ed. Grace Schulman.
New York: Viking, 2003.
- ---. Becoming Marianne Moore: The Early Poems, 1907-1924. Ed.
Robin G. Schulze. Berkeley: U of California P, 2002.
- ---. Observations: Poems. 1925. Ed. Linda Leavell. New York:
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2016.
- Norman, Charles. E.
E. Cummings, The Magic-Maker.
3rd ed. Boston: Little, Brown, 1972.
- Piepenbring, Dan. "Ultrarumpus:
A Letter from e.e. cummings to Ezra Pound." [8 Oct. 1941] From the
Archive: Paris Review blog. (14 Oct. 2014). Web.
- Pound, Ezra. "Small Magazines."
The English Journal 19 (1930): 689-704. Print and Web.
- Pound, Ezra, ed. Active Anthology. London: Faber & Faber,
- Rosenblitt, Alison. E. E. Cummings' Modernism and the Classics:
Each Imperishable Stanza. Oxford / New York: Oxford UP, 2016.
- ---. "Pretentious Scansion, Fascist Aesthetics, and a Father-complex
for Joyce: E. E. Cummings on Sapphics and Ezra Pound." Cambridge Classical
Journal 59 (December 2013): 178-198.
- Sawyer-Lauçanno, Christopher. E. E. Cummings: A Biography.
Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2004.
- Sutton, Walter, ed. Pound, Thayer, Watson, and The Dial:
A Story in Letters. Gainesville: UP of Florida, 1994.
- Rumble, Walker. "The
Persian Typesetter: S. A. Jacobs, E. E. Cummings, and the
Golden Eagle Press." Spring: The Journal of the E.
E. Cummings Society 20 (2013): 37-45.
- ---. "Reclaiming S. A. Jacobs: Polytype, Golden Eagle, and Typographic
Printing History Association (20 March 2014). Web.
- Webster, Michael. "An
Old Door, Cummings' Personal Printer, and W [ViVa]." EEC Society Blog
(29 June 2015). Web.
- ---. "Pound Teaching Cummings, Cummings Teaching Pound."
Ezra Pound and Education. Eds. Steven Yao and Michael Coyle.
Orono, ME: National Poetry Foundation, 2012. 47-66.
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