Thursday Poem: anyone lived in a pretty how town, by e.e. cummings

31 Mar
steps written on in bright coloured chalk: "down they forgot as up they grew"

click through for source

anyone lived in a pretty how town

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake up and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream
stars rain sun moon (and only the snow can begin to explain how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

— e. e. cummings

I know it’s not Tuesday, but I’ve had this in drafts for ages, so! I got this out of my ancient Penguin Anthology of American Verse, which has some pretty odd choices and omissions but is, I usually find, a good place to start for any American poet which is the point I guess. I doubt my version is still available, it will presumably have been updated more recently than 1986.

Despite it being autumn and getting colder, we’ve had some incredible Wellington days, clear and bright and wonderful. In that kind of weather I can never resist this brilliant cummings poem:

i thank You God for most this amazing‘ day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes

– which to my mind is one of those poems that you just can’t stop reading, you have to keep going all the way to the last couplet: “(now the ears of my ears awake and/now the eyes of my eyes are opened)”  I read through all of his poems I own and then I browse about on the internet and felt guilty. I felt guilty because it’s quite difficult to get an accurate copy of most of his poems (for example, you get a hell of a lot *more* google results for “I thank you God for this most amazing” than you do for “i thank You God for most this amazing”) and I don’t think he’d be thrilled about that, I don’t think anyone should be; and of course I felt guilty about the dissemination of poetry such that – unlike novels where you at least have to jump through a bunch of hoops and be really *aware* that you’re doing something wrong and illegal to pirate – you can pretty much read the bulk of most well-known poets’ work for free, online, 100% of the time, no guilt attached.

I think this post sat in drafts for so long because I’m conflicted about that last paragraph. Well, not conflicted: I think it’s pretty much true. Which is not so bad for Shakespeare or even old e.e. because after all they’re not going to get royalties anyway. Jenny Bornholdt? Well, she’s a New Zealand poet so her work is a lot less available online, but you can get quite a lot, like the poem I meant to post this week, The Boyfriends. (“The boyfriends all love you but they don’t really know how…”) On the other hand, a lot of places where people post poetry also include tremendous amounts of discussion. I went out and bought a book by Philip Larkin after people at Great Poets posted some of his work. That community keeps poetry alive and widely-read; so do lots of others. So I don’t really know how to finish this off, except maybe: this is a good poem! And I like it! And that’s all.

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5 Responses to “Thursday Poem: anyone lived in a pretty how town, by e.e. cummings”

  1. Corrina 31/03/2011 at 7:50 am #

    There’s a lovely setting of this by Eric Whitacre!

    • Tui Head 02/04/2011 at 7:08 pm #

      Oh cool! I shall have to hunt it down.

  2. Cara Marie 31/03/2011 at 12:25 pm #

    I do not have anything to say about poetry on the internet, but this is my favourite poem ever ♥

    • Tui Head 02/04/2011 at 7:08 pm #

      ♥ I love it a lot. He’s brilliant.

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