Friday, May 20, 2011

Poetry Friday: Cosmic and E.E. Cummings

Cosmic, by Frank Cottrell Boyce, opens with a boy in a rocket ship, far above the Earth---and it's not science fiction. Not really. It's contemporary, with a solidly classic feel to the prose. My far-too short Goodreads commentary was: "Oh, yes, it's cosmic: a book with a totally believable voice and a wildly unbelievable plot.  And it doesn't leave you feeling like you ate cotton candy.  Wise and funny and wonderful." 

I should've also said that it gave me the same feeling as E.E. Cummings's poem, "anyone lived in a pretty how town."

My first meeting with Cummings was in English class, in a hard-edged desk, with a worn anthology open in front of me.  We were supposed to be bored. We were supposed to be cajoled into loving this stuff. We were supposed to not want to dance when we read these words:

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

What the what? My brain spun. I flipped the words around on my tongue like those ubiquitous Pop Rocks that were popular in the 70s.

And there was more.

Of course, we had to discuss the poet's unconventional use of punctuation, syntax and grammar, etc., etc. What the what, in other words. (Later I learned that he was influenced by Picasso's cubism, which makes complete sense.) But why the why---that's what I wondered. Why couldn't we sing like this all the time?

In Cosmic, the boy hero doesn't "down forget as up he grows." And up he does grow, prematurely, so that everyone mistakes him for an adult. Which puts him in some intensely sticky situations, like on a rocket bound for the moon as the one responsible "dad" overseeing a group of kid astronauts. (I told you it was unbelievable.)

I'm not sure why the why I delight in the otherworldly---and the other-wordy, like E.E.'s poems. I'm just grateful nothing has to be as it seems at first glance. That our pretty how towns can be mundane and extraordinary at the same time. That poetry and classic kids book share much in common----mostly, a belief in the cosmic.  

Julie at The Drift Record has the Poetry Friday roundup today.


  1. I feel like twisting reality around a little is what helps me really see it.

  2. Yup, I agree with Adrienne. Sounds like a great book. i totally fell for e.e. in high school too.

  3. Love love this post. Creativity is all about twisting the elements. Cummings remains my favorite poet of all time. :)

  4. Thanks! from another e.e. lover in an anyhow town.

  5. I have a thin little book of cummings' poetry titled Xaipe (pronounced "Khi-ra" and meaning "rejoice") that I dip into regularly for doses of wonder, delight and humour. And did you know he wrote fairy tales?

  6. you always wallop me with such casual depth in your posts, sara. thanks.


R-E-S-P-E-C-T (or you will be deleted)

You can receive followup comments to this conversation by checking the "notify me" box below the comment window.