Tag Archives: ee cummings

Glowing in the Afterhurt

Once I gilted lilies
in the hope of yet in spite and
even though and still because of it
there wasn’t much of either then
(things unknown after this now, like
lips surrounding ashless breathing,
hands that seemed to fit too closely,
wanting but the need to truth
was what the why could not dissemble).

There upon the killing floor, where
something reading Phoenix papers
lost itself in time’s fluxation,
two hands grasped for fallen control.

He who I am not could say in nothing
more than clever verse, which is not all
there is so purified in this
that my corruption cannot alter.

Once I gilted lilies
in the hope of yet in spite and
even though and never thought it would
was weak when once the moments tendered
(things unknown until this now, like
lips surrendered barely breathing,
hands that seemed to know your beauty,
knowing but the need for truth
was what the way could not discover).

There upon the killing floor, where
something, almost my religion,
lost itself in time’s mad frustration,
two hands parted once in anguish.

I who am not he who could would ought
to be so good for you can say nothing
you find worth embracing; but, if anything
remains when other princes fall,
promise me what almost never happened.

Spring 1994

A note from 2005: An email from an old friend in Memphis got me thinking about the time I spent there, the places I haunted and the people to whom I gave a piece or two of my heart. This poem was written during that time, after an evening spent with someone (who knows who they are) during which certain things happened, and other things did not, neither set of which is good or bad, nor prevented or encouraged the rest of our lives from continuing, albeit along separate roads. It is a poem of might-have-beens that in retrospect might be just-as-wells. A poem of things I should have been able to say, but was unable to cut from their crazy poetic metaphor except to speak in Imagist parables. What we had, were deluded into thinking we did or did not have, or might have had … well, that is another lifetime’s story. You know who you are. Without your inspiration, it’s doubtful that I would have been a poet in Memphis … and now, I find myself a poet no matter where I go. Part of me that I recognize to be my true self I discovered in the process of trying to be part of your life. Thank you. I wish you nothing but happiness.

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Cummings on Poetry

A tag line on a message from a discussion group included part of a quote from e.e. cummings that I have tacked on my wall to remind me of what I’m supposed to be doing as a poet.

I first encountered it, strangely enough, in the foreward to Critical Path written by R. Buckminster Fuller. He found inspiration in this simple set of instructions, and so do I.

A Poet’s Advice

A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words. This may sound easy. It isn’t.

A lot of people think or believe or know they feel — but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling — not knowing or believing or thinking.

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people; but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.

To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — menas to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in words, that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn’t a poet can possibly imagine. Why? Because nothing is quite as easy as using words like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time — and whenever we do it, we are not poets.

If at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting and working and feeling, you find you’ve written one line of one poem, you’ll be very lucky indeed.

And so my advice to all young people who wish to become poets is: do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world — unless you’re not only willing, but glad, to feel and work and fight till you die.

Does this sound dismal? It isn’t. It’s the most wonderful life on earth.

Or so I feel.

— e.e. cummings

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So ends another weekend. We (stardances and I) were hoping to have a quiet weekend to ourselves, just cleaning and organizing and having a very quiet, uneventful time of it. But the lives of teenagers are SO uncertain – it turns out that the Troll Queen decided to stay with us rather than visit her father this weekend. And so there were three. It wasn’t really too much noisier, however, since she had a number of activities to participate in that didn’t include us, and also had quite a bit of homework to do. We all have a bit of home work, when it comes down to it. There is so much to do around the house that needs attention.

I’ve just ordered a new computer for work (hurrah, because this one won’t run Neverwinter Nights, it’s just THAT ancient) and it should be arriving within the next five to seven days (right about the time that Hurricane Isadore will arrive, I’m sure). In preparation for that, we are trying to organize the foyer so that I can have my “office” isolated a bit more from the rest of the house; that way, everyone gets to use the front room while I’m working, and I’ll have a bit of space that I can set up as my writing area for those hours that I’m not working. Think of it as my study … I’m looking forward to figuring out all the organization, and I’m also looking forward to getting the Painting Room organized so that Star can have her bit of creative space as well. I think it will do us both a world of good. I’m thinking that what Star needs for Yule this year is a drafting table … 🙂 This weekend after payday I’m going to run out and find her a wonderful magnifying glass so she can examine the flora close up and personal…

I’ve immersed myself in a very intense reading program right now, trying to prepare myself to begin writing new material with a vengeance >:->. My current reading list is as follows:

Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. I — This is a very wonderful book. Gibbon is one of the only non-contemporary historians (a contemporary historian would be someone that wrote about their own time, like Herodotus or Julius Caesar) that wrote before this century that is still considered a valid source of information. His prose is a bit dry, but I find it good reading and his philosophical interpretation is tenable. Right now, I’ve just finished up with Severus and am heading into the first of the Barbarian incursions.

Kenneth Lyon, Hemingway — This biography is quite thick; because I am a VERY fast reader (for example, the Lord of the Rings trilogy takes me about two days to read), I like to find books with a bit of heft to them, and this one certainly fit the bill. I’ve become interested in reading about writers, and trying to figure out where they were in their lives when they wrote whatever they wrote. Hemingway is a great study in contradictions; reminds me of my father at times, and at other times, reminds me of myself, particularly at those times I don’t particularly care for myself. But his writing style I like very much. Less is more. Sometimes, much more.

Lady Charlotte Guest, The Mabinogion — A classic of Celtic mythology, albeit due to the time of its translation, perhaps a bit over romanticized. I try to keep at least one culture’s mythos nearby to dip into – Edith Hamilton’s Greek Mythology was something I had to read in high school and I’ve liked it ever since.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays and English Traits — I admit it, I’m a bad scholar. I inherited the five foot shelf of books that comprise the Harvard Classics Library a few years ago, and sadly have not read too many volumes. For some reason, when I was looking for something to give my reading variety the other day, I picked up the Emerson volume. Two essays in particular, The American Scholar and Self Reliance I am particularly struck by. Many of Emerson’s interpretations of books and their uses is echoed in Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind … amazing how the course of 150 years has not changed the basic outlook for American intellectualism all that much.

e.e. cummings, 100 Selected Poems — I’ve always liked cummings as a poet, even mimicked him to some degree during my Memphis years, particularly regarding capitalization, sentence run ons, etc.

Lewis Turco, The Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics — This book I highly recommend for anyone who is interested in learning about different poetic forms, particularly if you’re interested in being a poet who writes verse (i.e., lines that have a specific word count, meter, emphasis, etc.) as opposed to prose (i.e., unmetered text).

I’m still anticipating with bated breath the arrival of my two new books, Heny Miller’s On Writing and The Books in My Life. I foresee that just as he was a turning point for me at 28 (the year he started writing, too) when I first picked up the Tropics, Miller will get me started on something more grandiose that I probably can currently imagine. Through Henry Miller I started accumulating a repertoire of authors and really began to become well-read.

To close, here’s a thought from one of my journals about a year ago:

A sentence represents a period of time.
Within that period of time,
the verbs are the lessons,
and the nouns are the tests.

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