(Poem #57) pity this busy monster, manunkind
pity this busy monster, manunkind, not. Progress is a comfortable disease: your victim (death and life safely beyond) plays with the bigness of his littleness --- electrons deify one razorblade into a mountainrange; lenses extend unwish through curving wherewhen till unwish returns on its unself. A world of made is not a world of born --- pity poor flesh and trees, poor stars and stones, but never this fine specimen of hypermagical ultraomnipotence. We doctors know a hopeless case if --- listen: there's a hell of a good universe next door; let's go
[<http://www.gvsu.edu/english/cummings/caps.htm> for justification] Cummings is by no means an easy poet to read. His poems are somewhat dense and cryptic, and often require several readings before one can truly appreciate them. However, they are always worth the effort, as is amply evidenced by the poem above - one of my favourites for the sheer beauty of its language. Note the plethora of invented compounds (something Cummings excels at - and there's a lot more to it than sticking two randomwords together), the almost surreal yet wonderfully nail-on-the-head phrases, and the way the unusual formatting enhances the poem rather than annoying the reader. Though this is superficially similar to the Whitman poem, there is a significant difference. The critical attitude and the somewhat sarcastic tone do not change the fact that Cummings *has* appreciated the marvels inherent in science and technology. This is a whole nother fallacy - not that Science is a dull grey blanket thrown over the face of Nature, but rather that it is a glitteringly and dangerously seductive trap into which mankind - sorry, man*un*kind, is walking with his eyes wide open. Actually, it's hard to call this one a fallacy - the view is widely held, and not only by non-scientists. Needless to say, I disagree, but that's another matter - it doesn't affect the poem's value in any way. Biographical Notes: Cummings, E.E. b. Oct. 14, 1894, Cambridge, Mass., U.S. d. Sept. 3, 1962, North Conway, N.H. in full EDWARD ESTLIN CUMMINGS, American poet and painter who first attracted attention, in an age of literary experimentation, for his eccentric punctuation and phrasing. The spirit of New England dissent and of Emersonian "Self-Reliance" underlies the urbanized Yankee colloquialism of Cummings' verse. Cummings' name is often styled "e.e. cummings" in the mistaken belief that the poet legally changed his name to lowercase letters only. Cummings used capital letters only irregularly in his verse and did not object when publishers began lowercasing his name, but he himself capitalized his name in his signature and in the title pages of original editions of his books. Cummings received his B.A. degree from Harvard University in 1915 and was awarded his M.A. in 1916. During World War I he served with an ambulance corps in France, where he was interned for a time in a detention camp because of his friendship with an American who had written letters home that the French censors thought critical of the war effort. This experience deepened Cummings' distrust of officialdom and was symbolically recounted in his first book, The Enormous Room (1922). In the 1920s and '30s he divided his time between Paris, where he studied art, and New York City. His first book of verse was Tulips and Chimneys (1923), followed by XLI Poems and & (1925); in the latter year he received the Dial award for distinguished service to American letters. In 1927 his play him was produced by the Provincetown Players in New York City. During these years he exhibited his paintings and drawings, but they failed to attract as much critical interest as his writings. Eimi (1933) recorded, in 432 pages of experimental prose, a 36-day visit to the Soviet Union, which confirmed his individualist repugnance for collectivism. He published his discussions as the Charles Eliot Norton lecturer on poetry at Harvard University (1952-53) under the title i: six nonlectures (1953). In all he wrote 12 volumes of verse, assembled in his two-volume Complete Poems (1968). -- EB Assessment: Cummings' moods were alternately satirical and tough or tender and whimsical. He frequently used the language of the streets and material from burlesque and the circus. His erotic poetry and love lyrics had a childlike candour and freshness. -- EB In his work, Cummings experimented radically with form, punctuation, spelling and syntax, abandoning traditional techniques and structures to create a new, highly idiosyncratic means of poetic expression. Later in his career, he was often criticized for settling into his signature style and not pressing his work towards further evolution. Nevertheless, he attained great popularity, especially among young readers, for the simplicity of his language, his playful mode and his attention to subjects such as war and sex. At the time of his death in 1962, he was the second most widely read poet in the United States, after Robert Frost. -- The Academy of American Poets <[broken link] http://www.poets.org/lit/poet/eecumfst.htm> ...In addition, readers' enjoyment and comprehension of the poetry will be greatly increased by a good working knowledge of Cummings' life. To an unusual degree, Cummings attempted to inhabit the self that he depicted in his poems. -- Spring (The Journal of the E. E. Cummings Society) m.