It’s been a while, but I finally got around to revisiting a small book of e.e. cummings’ poetry that I once loved as a budding freshman. Once loved may be inaccurate; I’m probably falling in love all over again.
It’s astonishing how cummings manages to be simultaneously light and heavy with words and punctuation. He does so much with so little—the spacing, the arrangement of lines, the careful order and meaning of every minute detail. When you glance at a given poem of his, you see a good amount of blank space, which gives the words a natural heft and weight. And his words! They’re juicy and visceral and evocative, as if they cannot contain the immense surges of life flowing through: “watersmooth-silver,” “puddle-wonderful,” “a million billion trillion stars,” “smoothloomingly,” “let blood and flesh be mud and mire,” “in raptures of undream.”
One of my favorite poems is “when god lets my body be,” because it’s such a bittersweet, soft, gentle impression of a world in which the senses thrive and the earth is full of tender ghosts. There is a cyclical implication in the last line, “the bulge and nuzzle of the sea,” and if there’s anything I believe in, it’s that nothing is truly destroyed in this world (the first law of thermodynamics; every burning cell inside of us will someday go on to bring life to something else—a star, an ocean, a butterfly—as Simmons said, a good life, I hope).
other lingering phrases and lines:
“to hold a mountain’s heartbeat in his hand”
“the most who die,the more we live”
“We doctors know
a hopeless case if—listen: there’s a hell
of a good universe next door;let’s go”
“yes is a pleasant country”
“we’re wonderful one times one”
“there’s never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile”
“I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance”
“(all the mountains are dancing;are dancing)”