Monday, January 09, 2006

e.e. cummings: what Got him was Nothing

what Got him was Noth
e. e. cummings
poem #30 from 95 poems. 1958

what Got him was Noth
ing & nothing's exAct

ly what any one Living
(or some
Dead like even a Poet)could
hardly express what
i Mean is
what knocked him over Wasn't
(for instance)the Knowing your

whole(yes god

damned)life is a Flop or even

Feel how
& hoped &
prayed for
months & weeks & days & years
& nights &
forever)is Less Than
Nothing(which would have been

Something)what got him was nothing

e.e. cummings wrote poetry like a jazz musician plays scat - jumping from here to there, improvising, who knows where he would go next. Some detested it:

So far as I am concerned, Mr. Cummings may do anything he likes with the alphabet, the English grammar, and the multiplication table, provided only the result of his activities be something interesting, and after a reasonable period of application, comprehensible, to a reader of culture and brains. Mr. Cummings may not, however, I say, write poetry in English which is more difficult for me to translate than poetry written in Latin. He may, of course, write it. But if he publishes it, if he prints and offers for sale poetry which he is quite content should be, after hours of sweating concentration, inexplicable from any point of view to a person as intelligent as myself, then he does so with a motive which is frivolous from the point of view of art, and should not be helped or encouraged by any serious person of group of persons...

Edna St. Vincent Millay
Savage Beauty
pg. 370

I generally dislike "Modern Art". However, on reflection, I think I dislike it not so much because it is modern, as because I perceive the artists "works" as being shallow and mediocre. Not that I know zhizhi about art. I don't. But, sometimes, from the end zone, shallow and mediocre is very clear. I think I would like interesting and significant modern art - which, of course, is really just: "art".

I like scat. I'm coming to like jazz more and more, and to appreciate music more and more, and I like scat.

And I like e.e. cummings. I think he is interesting and significant. For all I know, cummings was an atheist - yet I see this particular poem as quite theological. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon gives voice to the same sense of futility as cummings, saying "All is vanity, and striving after wind." The bigger theme, I think, of cummings and Solomon, is that whenever one is stripped of all artifice, and all fantasy, one comes face to face, finally, with truth. And God.

That moment will getcha.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I gave him everything. My heart, soul, my mind.. everything. All I got was nothing. How could he have done this to me. We had good conversations and laughs, but the love that I had for him was real. He left me crying, begging for more of nothing. Nothing, nothing! Why would someone intentionally hurt someone who is good to them. Why murder me emotionally and leave me.