Excerpt Wednesday – (anyone lived in a pretty how town) – Cummings

anyonelived_cummings.jpgWomen and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain
E.E. Cummings (1894-1962)

I distinctly remember struggling with E.E. Cummings’ experimental poetry in school – i carry your heart (probably still his most popular poem) presented no challenge, but much of the rest of his work seemed so strange: it was my first introduction to abstract poetry. I also remember that when I finally read anyone lived in a pretty how town, this was the moment I felt like I “got it.” Oh, that’s what he’s doing, I said to myself with a sigh of relief (for my grade in the class). No longer under the threat of a term paper, I have since come to truly appreciate Mr. Cummings’ experiments with language. But anyone lived in a pretty how town is still my entry point to his work and experimental methods. If you would like to read the whole poem, click here (there is also an audio file of Mr. Cummings reading the poem!). Collage (mixed media on newsprint and digital) by me.


  1. I think this is my all-time favorite collage of yours now, Marcy! (Massive e.e. fan that I am…) And wow, all this time, there was audio! I dropped everything I was doing at work the moment I saw this post and listened. Hey, this is important! 🙂


    1. Thank you, Sunshine! I was excited to see that the audio was posted alongside the poem – I wish that they did that for more of them! This collage is one my favorites too. It was so different than any of the other ones I’ve done. I saw this article about canned goods from around the world and it inspired me to try to find as many pictures of cans as I could. It struck me that, like this poem, canned foods are both universal and unique!

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    1. You are so welcome! After I “met” this poem and it helped me finally “see” Cummings genius, it became one of my favorites too and I wound up painting one verse on my bookshelf in college!

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    1. Thank you so much, Kerfe! I was just reading about how Cummings’ wrote poetry for 30 years before he found any critical acclaim – so we aren’t the only ones that needed some time to warm up to him! As I was mentioning to Claudia, there are definitely poems of his that I still struggle with, but ultimately, I aspire to one day sculpt with words as he did.

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    1. Thank you, Sheldon! The head and hands came from a museum newsletter advertising a Picasso exhibit – the Picasso painting they come from has such a different mood and posture (the head is looking down and I believe she is meant to be wailing). It shows the power and art of collage to reveal new aspects of old images, to shake up context. Your collages especially inspire me in this regard!

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  2. One of my favorite cummings — and an excellent entry point to his work! I haven’t read much of his poetry (or anyone’s , really) in a long time, but when I was much younger, I immersed myself. The way he uses all parts of language: the sound and the look and the feel; the punctuation and shape; all the way down to the bones and fat of it.

    “she being brand new” is less twee-ly delightful than “anyone lived in a pretty how town” — but as it was one of the first cummings where *I* felt as though I understood the possibilities he was exploring, I shall happily leave a link for you here. Gift for gift, as it were. ❤


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    1. Thank you, Alice! I agree – especially with a poem like “she being brand new” there is a visual rhythm and that particular shape – he is sculpting with words and punctuation – it deeply appeals to the artist in me. Thank you for the gift of a new poem! I couldn’t get the audio file to play, sadly, since it would have been interesting to hear how Garrison Keillor recited it. I’ve been told to simply follow the punctuation when reciting poems, but with E.E., I’m not sure that would work! 😉

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    1. Thank you, Susi! The whole “circus” right now surrounding the nominating conventions (both Democrat and Republican) made me think of this poem – that no matter which politician or pundit is yelling at who about what, the drama of everyday life is goes on all over the world…

      …someones married their everyones
      laughed their cryings and did their dance
      (sleep wake hope and then)they
      said their nevers they slept their dream…

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