Friday, October 14, 2011

E. E. Cummings is Kind of a Big Deal

Not my picture of the poet

Today is E. E. Cummings's birthday! This is a big thing to me because when I was in high school, I went to a library book sale with my mom and found a copy of 50 Poems by him. I was completely blown away by his work. I couldn't believe that "l(a" was considered a poem. And that was one of his more understandable poems. His style of work really made me rethink what I thought poetry was and led to experimenting with my own.

I still identify with a lot of his work. "i sing of Olaf glad and big" is one that I especially took to heart when the wars started. Be warned: it's an anti-war poem and gets kind of graphic. Cummings's poetry is part of what made me so against war early on.

Garrison Keillor on Writer's Almanac read one of my favorites this morning, "you shall above all things be glad and young." The last two lines are beautiful: "I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing / than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance."

I haven't read The Enormous Room yet, but it's in my to-read pile. It's the story of his being captured in France during World War I, when he was an ambulance driver. He was suspected of espionage and imprisoned. You can read more about Cummings's life (and the capitalization of his name, which I think some lowercase out of respect for his style, not in mocking).

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