For the Record

[Spring 6 (1997): 187-192]

I’m an MFA candidate at Eastern Washington University, currently teaching a weekly poetry workshop at Airway Heights Correction Center, as well as an Intro to Literature class at Spokane Falls Community College.

As part of my graduate degree, I have to take a comprehensive exam on seven modern poets and seven contemporary poets of my choice. Cummings sits next to Gertrude Stein at the top of my list of modernists, because of the musicality of his work, and because of his ability to be inventive within traditional structures and his willingness to branch out of them when necessary. On his 100th birthday, my friend Sarah Monahan and I made a cake for him, which we brought in to our poetry writing workshop at Eastern. Sarah found one of Cummings’ poems that talked about birthdays, so we lettered that on top of the cake.

My name is Antonio Ruiz Sánchez and I am a member of the English Department at University of Córdoba (Spain). I have always been in love with Cummings. Therefore, when the Head of my Department, years ago, allowed me to choose any topic of North-American poetry, I decided to work on Cummings for my PhD. I discovered, to my surprise, that although Cummings is in most of the anthologies on American poetry we use in Spain, he is still a rather unknown poet, even within academic contexts. In fact, he is missing in many of the syllabi on American Literature of the Spanish universities.

I am doing my best to mend this unfair situation. Cummings’ work is taught at Córdoba University now; his poetry will also be present at the next congress of the Spanish Association for American Studies that will be held next April in León where I will present a paper. Also, a review on one of the Spanish translations has been published in the local newspaper, and a public reading of some of his poems will be held next Tuesday (12/11/1996) in one of the most fashionable locales of my city (Córdoba) within he ‘First Meeting on North American Poetry’ organized by the magazines Plurabelle and Recuento.

I am also researching on the situation of Cummings’ work in Spain: the possible influence of Cummings’ poetry on some Spanish poets, the Spanish translations of his books and poems, and the level of knowledge of him by he general public. I will be able to offer you and the journal Spring a paper entitled ‘Cummings in Spain’ during this year1. As you know, Cummings is a hundred percent an American writer; however, his European experience was crucial in his life and work and, in my opinion, there is still a lot of work to be done on this aspect.

I would also like to join the E. E. Cummings Society and to help you with anything you need in the future (I have enclosed the subscription card).

You probably know already this reference to Cummings: The famous writer Octavio Paz refers to a trip of Cummings and Dos Passos through Spain. He also talks about several meetings between himself and Cummings in New York (in Spanish: Traducción, Literatura y Lierareidad. Barcelona: Tusquets, 1990). 

[Editor's note: here is the English reference for the Paz article: Paz, Octavio. "E. E. Cummings." The Siren and the Seashell. Trans. Lysander Kemp and Margaret Sayers Peden. Austin: U of Texas P, 1976. 131-136.]

Last October 31 on a TV program titled "Maloney" a schizo, trying to hang on to his sanity, begins reciting (to himself) snatches of poetry, including the line "as freedom is a breakfast food." (No mention of Cummings.) Forbes magazine for November 18, 1996 on the "Thoughts" page (always the last in the magazine) quotes Cummings: "May I be wrong, for whenever men are right they are not young." Richard Morris in his book titled Cosmic Questions observes on page 135: "It would be possible to say that theories of nothingness have become an important part of cosmology in the last few years. . . . a new field, known as quantum cosmology . . . examines the ways in which the universe might have come into existence. And more often than not, scientists in this field form hypotheses about ways in which it might have been formed out of nothing." Ah! Would Cummings smile?  

I want to express my appreciation to you for the absolutely wonderful Fall issue of Spring. I’ve read it and am re-reading it with the greatest pleasure. I particularly appreciate getting to know Cummings as a human being, through the accounts of those who were "close" to him and Marion Morehouse; and from those who have carefully studied his life and art.

I’m an enthusiastic Cummings fan. I marvel at the subtle levels of meanings contained within the juxtaposition of words, spatial arrangements and images. I continue to be amazed to discover and re-discover poems that are fresh that I can’t recall having seen before. So many quotes from him suggest themselves at this point that I’ll decline to use. Well, one exception:

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)    [Complete 663]

I continue to be puzzled by those who rank him as less than a major poet. I don’t understand (or want to) the politics of academic poetica. I suppose he’s not much different from William Shakespeare who’s still being accused of being incapable of writing Shakespeare. I suspect, but probably won’t be around to prove it, that Cummings will be read, apprehended, and appreciated long after many of he so-called Major Poets of the 20th century will be curiosity items for English doctoral candidates in search of a thesis.

E. E. Cummings’ stone is inscribed with the words, "A world of made / is not a world of born" from his sonnet, "pity this busy monster,manunkind" (Complete 554). Spring #7 will have a complete report of this event.

* * *

"ends are beginnings with their hats on"

—E. E. Cummings

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