“e.e.cummings: selected poems 1923-1958”

There can be few writers more generally inaccessible than e.e.cummings. By breaking so many conventions – both in the language and structure of poetry – perhaps the primary thing cummings’ achieved was to release the traditional shackles and taboos which may have been constraining poetry in the first part of the twentieth century.

You could argue, I guess, that what Joyce did for fiction, cummings at least contributed to in relation to poetry.

Yet if you subscribe to the not-very-intellectual theory that one of the aims of poetry is to communicate – and/or that it be written in such a way as to have the language it is written in perform that communication – then a fair chunk of cummings doesn’t shape up very well. If you wanted to be brutal, you could say that much of it is gibberish. Or

ch of(it
is gibb-er

Much is not, of course; and when cummings veers toward the literate and lyrical it can be quite wonderful. Having said that, I find myself asking the question as to whether it is actually possible to ‘like’ cummings. It feels more like undertaking an assault course than reading poetry – and often those walls are just too high, those ropes too slippery, that mud too deep.

So do I like cummings? In fragments – which is probably entriely appropriate. Dont u fink?