edward estlin cummings

…such was a poet and shall be and is

—who’ll solve the depths of horror to defend
a sunbeam’s architecture with his life:
and carve immortal jungles of despair
to hold a mountain’s heartbeat in his hand

excerpt from “no man, if men are gods;” from 1 X 1 [One Times One] by e.e.cummings

e.e. cummings. At last.

I was introduced to his poetry in 1991, as a freshman at uni, by the sculptor and artist Jenny Cortes(then apprentice of the not-always-lovable-but-certainly-never-boring master sculptor Jerry Araos)…I wonder where she is now

Bookstores in Manila were still very basic in the 90s; a ‘poetry section’ was usually thirty books—’treasuries’, mostly, of love poems, or the ubiquitous university-sanctioned collections of dead poets—languishing alongside those cheap edition paperback classics  that only high school students bought, and only because they were forced to write book reports on them. No one had ever heard of e.e.cummings.

I found him in the state university’s library…crumbling yellow pages in books that had long ago been rebound by the university librarians in their trademark ugly maroon bookcloth, with the pocked orange peel texture, and the blurry gold-stamped title in condensed (Orator?) all-caps on the spine.

The idiosyncratic way he played with the language,—the words rattling, dancing around on the page the way phrases often did in my own head—the romantic love sonnets given a jazzy twist…the satire and humor in his poems about war or about humanity…endeared themselves to me, and I have loved this poet ever since. He was like Gertrude Stein, minus the deutschkopf and the German-Jewish baggage.

I copied 370 of his poems by hand into a big notebook, and they were all that I ever had on paper of his works.

e.e.cummings Complete Poems 1904-1964Then I moved to Darwin and found his Complete Poems 1904-1962 at the local library.  From then on the library and I entered into a sort of ‘joint ownership’ of the book (not that they realized what was going on) where I would borrow the Complete Poems of e.e.cummings, keep it the full month, renew my borrowing twice (the maximum number of renewals permitted) and then reluctantly bring the book back to them after having had it for three months. The day after I had brought it back, I would go and take it out again. I think I have had that library book in my possession for nearly a year, all counted. I once went back to borrow it again, and was told that it was out. I was happy to know that someone else in Darwin read cummings, but I also couldn’t relax until it reappeared on the library’s shelves.

Crazy lady. Uh huh.

Then last October I finally did what I should have done fifteen years ago: I hunted down and bought my own copy of Complete Poems. No more stalking the librarians of the Council Library…

at last perfection,now and here

—but look:not sunlight?yes!

and(plunging rapturously up)

we spill our masterpiece

“to start,to hesitate;to stop” from XAIPE by e.e.cummings


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