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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Odes to Spring - Favorite e.e. cummings Poems

Two of my favorite e.e. cummings poems are "Spring Is Like a Perhaps Hand" and "What if a Much of a Which of a Wind." I used to own a volume of cummings poetry, but I can't locate it. I checked all of my anthologies, and I was amazed to find these two poems are not included, so I searched online so I could copy them here. I was reminded of them because I recently read an engaging poem about Spring, and though they are completely different, I thought of these:

Spring is like a perhaps hand

Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere) arranging
a window, into which people look (while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here) and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
(carefully to
and from moving New and
Old things, while
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there) and

without breaking anything.

e.e. cummings

what if a much of a which of a wind

what if a much of a which of a wind
gives the truth to summer's lie;
bloodies with dizzying leaves the sun
and yanks immortal stars awry?
Blow king to beggar and queen to seem
(blow friend to fiend: blow space to time)
-when skies are hanged and oceans drowned,
the single secret will still be man

what if a keen of a lean wind flays
screaming hills with sleet and snow:
strangles valleys by ropes of thing
and stifles forests in white ago?
Blow hope to terror; blow seeing to blind
(blow pity to envy and soul to mind)
-whose hearts are mountains, roots are trees,
it's they shall cry hello to the spring

what if a dawn of a doom of a dream
bites this universe in two,
peels forever out of his grave
and sprinkles nowhere with me and you?
Blow soon to never and never to twice
(blow life to isn't: blow death to was)
-all nothing's only our hugest home;
the most who die, the more we live

e.e. cummings

I first read e.e. cummings, these two poems, and a few others, when I was fifteen. I was enthralled with his use of language, his boldness in arranging the words on the page, instructing the reader how he wanted his words to be read. Cummings along with William Carlos Williams, and later Diane Wakoski, taught me how to use language in a poem to its best effect, with its own internal logic, truly a free verse.

This is one of many sites, where you can read a brief biography, and a selection of cumming's poems: http://www.americanpoems.com/poets/eecummings/


  1. thanks for the e.e. reminder and the bookmark. he was a poetic influence during my high school years also. i know i took my lack of capitalization from him. (usually only in poems, but it was appropriate for this comment.)

  2. You said it perfectly. I also discovered cummings when I was very young, and I have learned so much from him about word placement and phrasing. Beautiful poems!

  3. Thanks for sharing these fabulous selections from cummings!