Oct. 14, 2007

I carry your heart with me

by E. E. Cummings

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Poem: "I carry your heart with me(i carry it in..." by E.E. Cummings from Complete Poems: 1904-1962. © Liveright Publishing Corporation, 1994. Reprinted with permission.

I carry your heart with me(i carry it in

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
               i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(I carry it in my heart)

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of poet E. E. (Edward Estlin) Cummings, (books by this author) born in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1894), who became interested in communism as a young man and traveled to Russia to see it firsthand. He was horrified to find the theaters and museums were full of propaganda, and the people were scared to even talk to each other in public. Everyone was miserable. Cummings went home and wrote about the experience, comparing Russia to Dante's Inferno.

His view of communism was not popular in the literary world at the time, and magazines suddenly began refusing to publish his work. For the next two decades, he had a hard time publishing his books, and he got terrible reviews when he did. Critics thought his exotic arrangements of words on the page were silly, and they said he wrote like an adolescent. Then, in 1952, his friend Archibald MacLeish got Cummings a temporary post at Harvard, giving a series of lectures. Instead of standing behind the lectern, Cummings sat on the stage, read his poetry aloud, and talked about what it meant to him. The faculty members were embarrassed by his earnestness, but the undergraduates adored him and came to his lectures in droves. He began traveling and giving readings at universities across the country, even though he suffered from terrible back pain, and had to wear a metal brace that he called an "iron maiden." He loved performing and loved the applause, and the last 10 years of his life were the happiest.

E. E. Cummings said, "If a poet is anybody, he is somebody to whom things made matter very little — somebody who is obsessed by Making."

It's the birthday of the essayist Katha Pollitt, (books by this author) born in New York City (1949), who started out as a poet and supported herself writing book reviews. But she became less and less interested in the books she was reviewing and just started writing essays. She published her book Reasonable Creatures: Essays on Women and Feminism in 1994, and the same year she began to write a political column "Subject to Debate," which still appears every other week in The Nation magazine. Her most recent book Learning to Drive: And Other Life Stories came out last month.

It's the birthday of short-story writer Katherine Mansfield, (books by this author) born Katherine Mansfield Beauchamp in Wellington, New Zealand (1888), a rebellious young woman who had affairs with men and women, lived with indigenous people in New Zealand, and published scandalous stories under a variety of pseudonyms. In a letter to a publisher she wrote, "[I have] a rapacious appetite for everything and principles as light as my purse." Mansfield's family gave her an allowance so she could move to London, and she began to live so freely in the bohemian scene there that her mother came to visit and threatened to throw her into a convent. Mansfield said, "How idiotic civilization is! Why be given a body if you have to keep it shut up in a case like a rare, rare fiddle?"

Then, in the summer of 1915, her younger brother came to visit. They had long talks about growing up in New Zealand, and Mansfield found herself remembering things she hadn't thought about in years. Her brother left that fall to serve in World War I, and Mansfield learned two months later that he had been killed while demonstrating how to throw a grenade. She was devastated, but the shock inspired her to write a series short stories about her childhood, including her masterpiece, "The Garden Party," about a lavish party that's been planned by the Sheridan family. But when a workman in a nearby cottage is thrown from a horse and killed, young Laura Sheridan suggests that they should cancel the party out of respect for his family. Her parents disagree and the party goes ahead. At the end of it Laura gathers some leftovers and takes them to the dead man's house, where she views his body and his grieving family. Mansfield said the story was about, "The diversity of life and how we try to fit in everything. Death included."

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