Saturday, October 24

a bit of unconventional orthography

you shall above all things be glad and young
For if you're young, whatever life you wear

it will become you;and if you are glad
whatever's living will yourself become.

~ E. E. Cummings (from poem 22)

since my last aimless sojourn in the land of non-fiction resulted in such a pleasantly random (and informative) experience, I've been there again recently. mostly for essays. a few months back I interviewed essayist Patrick Madden (I mentioned him here, too) for Mormon Artist and after that, I felt like reading essays. lots of them.

in the neighborhood of essays (just four notches apart, nestled nicely in the 800 block of Mr. M. L. K. Dewey's crazy system.) are poems. big fat compilations of poetry by people like Walt Whitman, and also thin little portfolios of poetry by people I've never heard of, as well as everything inbetween. I found myself gazing in puzzlement back and forth along the shelves, not looking for anything at all, really, but looking for something, perhaps, if the something were there, whatever it was...

I picked up E. E. Cummings' 22 and 50 Poems. I stood between the shelves for a while, flipping randomly through it. poetry is odd stuff. did I really want to take any of it home with me? but what else are libraries for, but to give you a chance to spend a few days with a book you may not like?

so I took it home. I then spent a small slice of the evening explaining to a few less-poetic types just what it was about those exceedingly random arrangemenst of letters and words and punctuation that appealed to me. the imagery, I said. the playfulness, the bright evocation. the sounds of the words and the tugging of the rhythm. it takes you places. it teaches your tongue new tricks.

and some poetry is dull, cliche, and completely unengaging. don't ask me how I tell the difference. it's like the difference between a sunset and a boring blue sky--all in the eye of the beholder, I guess. I'm sure my poetry taste-buds are nothing like yours or anyone else's. I liked the quirky, meandering melodies of this. each page was kind of like looking through one of those little crazy straws, all colorful and curvy and strange. you can't really see the end of it, but it's pretty cool anyway.
our can'ts were born to happen
our mosts have died in more
our twentieth will open
wide a wide open door

we are so both and oneful
night cannot be so sky
sky cannot be so sunful
i am through you so i

~ E. E. Cummings (from poem 49)


Chris said...

Funny how a person who shirks capitalisation wherever possible has chosen to capitalise a name that is famously often rendered all in lowercase. :P (Which is actually the only thing I know about him, apart from his being a poet.)

But typographically, it does have an interesting effect. Sort of softens it. They're like word clouds.

amelia said...


wikipedia told me that Cummings didn't really mind whether anyone capitalized his name or not. I just did because... I have been capitalizing names around here for a while. and who cares about tradition?