There are really only two people I can think of who know a little bit of everything about literary culture and pop culture from Agamemnon up to Warren Zevon. One is Tim Joseph, and the other is Paul Muldoon. The New Yorker of March 3 was a fertile field for MV types, with that lovely poem by Don Paterson, and also an article on ee cummings by Muldoon, the magazine’s poetry editor (the scamp named his column “Capital Case”). The article was an appraisal of cummings’ work and also a review of a new biography, which Muldoon liked, and didn’t like. I learned a lot about cummings. I’ve always known that undergraduates tend to really like his poetry. I learned from the article that women undergraduates tended to really like his poetry, to the point that Cambridge and Greenwich Village neighbors were irked by the gathering throngs. I also learned that cummings was pretty much of a son-of-a-bitch, but really, should we be surprised by that?
I’ve never been all that great at breaking down cummings’ poems–they seem to do a fine job of that on their own. But look at this one, from later in his career, that appears pretty dang normal aside from the weird syntax and hidden referents. And hear all the rhymes! Bonus points to the reader who notices what form we’re reading here (2 weeks in a row)… The question for cummings is often, why the fractured mess, and what does it mean? I thought he provided a great and appropriate response to that general line of inquiry in the program notes to a play of his: “Don’t try to enjoy it, let it try to enjoy you. Don’t try to understand it, let it try to understand you.” Those commas should be semicolons, but hey, it’s cummings, whaddya gonna do?
And remember, for those lunks who will not forgive me for not running an Irish poet on St. Patrick’s Day, Muldoon was born in Portadown, Armagh! -ed.
how many moments must(amazing each
how many centuries)these more than eyes
restroll and stroll some never deepening beach
locked in foreverish time’s tide at poise,
love alone understands:only for whom
i’ll keep my tryst until that tide shall turn;
and from all selfsubtracting hugely doom
treasures of reeking innocence are born.
Then, with not credible the anywhere
eclipsing of a spirit’s ignorance
by every wisdom knowledge fears to dare,
how the(myself’s own self who’s)child will dance!
and when he’s plucked such mysteries as men
do not conceive–let ocean grow again