E.E. Cummings

I recently got The Spoken Arts Treasury Of 100 Modern American Poets and it’s so interesting to hear poets reciting their own work. I’m absolutely heartbroken by Sylvia Plath’s Lady Lazarus because it seems to me she’s on the verge of crying, I adore Anne Sexton’s dramatic voice, got excited by hearing Langston Hughes and Allen Ginsberg made me laugh. But oh, I’ve set myself up for one of my biggest disappointments to date, too: E.E. Cummings recitals are mind-boggling dreadful! He seems to be reading an eulogy in a pastor-like way. Whenever I’d read an E.E. Cummings poem I always heard the words dancing cheerfully. I’d always thought that such experimental poems must have a positive tone and especially the themes he choose call for unexpected ups and lows in one’s voice but Cummings goes about reading his work in one dreary tone. Ugh! It’s disgusting to hear for me. Hear for yourselves:

E.E. cummings • maggie and milly and molly and may

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

How can he recite a poem with such images of sweet childhood in that way? Gah!