Category Archives: E.E. Cummings

‘i carry your heart’ by E.E. Cummings

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 the 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)

I am always astounded by this poem; it is sort of perfect, and I love it deeply. It always reminds me that language is alive and must be allowed to breathe, and inspires me to be creative and brave with it. This is an understated, incredibly touching (and slightly quirky) love poem. Cummings’ technique has always fascinated me, with his disregard for capital letters (and often syntax), his poems at first glance are perhaps disconcerting because they appear unordered. But, his poems are actually very carefully crafted to give their whimsical and childish or unschooled appearance. I am obsessed with some of the phrases in this poem, like “i want no world” and “it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant” and “the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart”. Basically, I’m obsessed with the whole thing, but these are just the gems in it that I can never forget. The other night, I was reading the foreword to ‘is 5′ (a collection Cummings published in 1926) and it was fascinating (he wrote the foreword). I thought I would share some of it with you. Here are some excerpts that I found both amusing and intriguing: “At least my theory of technique,if I have one, is very far from original;nor is it complicated. I can express it in fifteen words,by quoting The Eternal Question And Immortal Answer of burlesk,viz. ‘Would you hit a woman with a child? – No, I’d hit her with a brick.’ Like the burlesk comedian, I am abnormally fond of that precision which creates movement.” “my only interest in making money would be to make it. Fortunately,however,I should prefer to make almost anything else,including locomotives and roses. It is with roses and locomotives(not to mention acrobats Spring electricity Coney Island the 4th of July the eyes of mice and Niagara Falls,that my ‘poems’ are competing. They are also competing with each other,with elephants,and with El Greco.”

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh

‘If strangers meet’ by E.E. Cummings

If strangers meet
life begins-
not poor not rich
(only aware)
kind neither
nor cruel
(only complete)
i not not you
not possible;
only truthful
-truthfully, once
if strangers(who
deep our most are
selves)touch:
forever
(and so to dark)

 

I love this poem because of the way it describes a chance meeting between two people, and the connection that can be made between strangers. This poem always makes me think of strangers on a bus, or on a train; it makes me think of the recognition we can find in a chance glance exchanged — the innocence that exists in that moment — before we know anything about the person — before judgement can interfere.

You could also read the poem as showing us a sort of “love at first sight” moment, which is truly touching. In the moment the strangers’ eyes meet, their owners are no longer “poor, not rich/ (only aware)”. The self has been forgotten and each person is only aware of the other and nothing else. The strangers, in this moment, are neither “kind” nor “cruel” but “only complete”. This part is so beautiful because it delivers the idea of how, when we connect with strangers (on a bus for example) we recognise instinctively — in the split second before all our baggage and judgement and personality interferes — a fellow spirit and inhabitant of this world.

The fleetingness and sense of chance that pervades the poem (note the title: “If strangers meet”) reminds us of the rarity of humanity recognising itself in others. It might only happen “once”. But when strangers, “who/deep our most are/ selves” — who are the same as us, at the core — “touch”, then it is “forever”. There is something divine in this recognition that makes it eternal.

Reviewed by Emily Ardagh