This short excerpt from the preface to E.E Cummings: A Life by Susan Cheever, ©2014, was a big help to me in understanding his poems. It’s a tremendous relief to know I’m not supposed to “get it” right away:
Modernism as (E.E.) Cummings and his mid-twentieth-century colleagues embraced it had three parts. The first was the exploration of using sounds instead of meanings to connect words to the reader’s feelings. The second was the idea of stripping away all unnecessary things to bring attention to form and structure: the formerly hidden skeleton of a work would now be exuberantly visible. The third facet of modernism was an embrace of adversity. In a world seduced by easy understanding, the modernists believed that difficulty enhanced the pleasures of reading. In a Cummings poem the reader must often pick his way toward comprehension, which comes, when it does, in a burst of delight and recognition.
Excerpted from Art Garfunkel’s autobiographical What Is It All But Luminous / notes from an Underground Man ©2017:
In May of ’69… Paul’s writing changed from “I know your part’ll go fine”– words of a deep friendship (The Only Living Boy in New York)– to “Why don’t you write me?”– words of frustration.
So many things that are obvious in retrospect slip by us in the present.
(An aside: it seems petty to complain about a book’s font, but this was published in something resembling Comic Sans that is very difficult to read.)
Excerpt from Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan, ©1967:
I remember mistaking an old woman for a trout stream in Vermont, and I had to beg her pardon.
“Excuse me,” I said, “I thought you were a trout stream.”
“I’m not, ” she said.
Almost all of Richard Brautigan’s poetry and novels are available for free download from The Brautigan Archives.
Excerpted from the preface to E.E Cummings: A Life by Susan Cheever, ©2014
Princeton poet Richard P. Blackmur said (E.E.) Cummings’s poems were “baby talk,” and poetry arbiter Helen Vendler called them repellent and foolish: “What is wrong with a man who writes this?” she asked.
Nothing was wrong with Cummings– or Duchamp or Stravinsky or Joyce, for that matter. All were trying to slow down the seemingly inexorable rush of the world, to force people to notice their own lives. In the twenty-first century, that rush has now reached Force-Five; we are all inundated with information and given no time to wonder what it means or where it came from. Access without understanding and facts without context have become our daily diet.
Another excerpt from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s travel journal, Writing Across the Landscape, © 2015:
NIGHT OF MARCH 6 (1972), IN NADI MOTEL– So noisy couldn’t sleep all night. Like a train station: trucks roaring past, people talking in hotel, doors slamming, etc., etc. Bad dreams… 7:15 a.m. we fly out to Australia. Possible that our waking psychic states are mirror images of our sleep & dreams, as the branches of the tree mirror the pattern of the roots? So that the profile of our dreams transfigures our waking moods preceding or following that sleep? The depression or euphorias of dreams carried over into our daytime subliminal feelings… A bad dream may blight our day, a dream of desire carry over into waking sexual aggressions. Of course, it’s all in Freud, all in Wilhelm Reich… The moon is my undoing when the sun comes up, the midnight sun gathers us in, our dream siblings signal us thru the flames.
A Q&A by Lawrence Ferlinghetti following a poetry reading in 1960:
Question by a serious student before a huge crowd at University of Vermont conference: “Sir, how you stand on fornication?”
Answer: “As for fornication, I very seldom stand; I lie down.”
Second question: “Do you really think Christ is dead?”
Answer: “The way the world acts today, you would think so. He’s not here tonight, is he? I don’t see him.”
Voice from the back of the auditorium: “Here I am.”
Excerpted from Writing Across the Landscape, © 2015
Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s travel journals read, not surprisingly, very much like his poetry.
This excerpt from Writing Across the Landscape (© 2015) records his thoughts attending a poetry conference at the Universidad de Concepción in Chili, in the early part of 1960:
The impression I have is that a great fat omnivorous crab named United States of America is sitting on top of the Pan-American hemisphere, sucking the marrow from its soft underside. The Coca-Colonization of the world…