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cummings & Lowell



‘There are certain things in which one is unable to believe for the simple reason that he never ceases to feel them. Things of this sort-things which are always inside of us and in fact are us and which consequently will not be pushed off or away where we can be-gin thinking about them-are no longer things; they, and the us which they are, equals A Verb; an IS.’ – cummings, in Ralph Mills, ‘The Poetry of Influence’ (1959)

‘There is an I Feel; an actual universe or alive of which our merely real world or thinking existence is at best a bad, at worst a murderous, mistranslation; flowers give me this actual universe.’ – cummings, Eimi (1933)

‘Do you hear a sound? That sound isn’t promising anything or proving anything or explaining or excusing anything or meaning anything or – pardon me for speaking frankly – selling or buying anything. Truth doesn’t sell or buy: truth sings. I hear singing.’ – cummings, interview, PM’s Weekly (1941)

‘A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feeling through words. This may sound easy. It isn’t. A lot of people think or believe or know they feel - but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling - not knowing or believing or thinking.’ - cummings, ‘A Poet’s Advice to Students’ (1955)


'Poetry is at once my trade and my religion'. - Amy Lowell, 'The Poetry Bookshop', The Little Review, 2 (May 1915)

'To understand vers libre, one must abandon all desire to find in it the even rhythm of metrical feet. One must allow the lines to flow as they will when read aloud by an intelligent reader.' - J. L. Lowes, Convention and Revolt in Poetry (1919)

'Free verse within its own law of cadence has no absolute rules; it would not be free if it had.' What is this law of cadence?' - J. L. Lowes, Convention and Revolt in Poetry (1919)

'The unit of vers libre is not the foot, the number of the syllables, the quantity, or the line. The unit is the strophe, which may be the whole poem, or may be only a part. Each strophe is a complete circle." - J. L. Lowes, Convention and Revolt in Poetry (1919)

Critics on cummings & Lowell

‘One could write a cummings poem oneself simply by juggling the cummings syntax and the cummings counters: young, new, yes, frail, love, bright, dream, doom, flower, moon, small, deep, touch, least, sweet, brief, guess, kiss, lost, and on and on and on’ - Helen Vendler, ‘Review of Complete Poems’ in Guy L. Rotella, ed. Critical Essays on e. e. cummings (1984)

‘To the frustration of most critics, Cummings is a mystic, a Romantic, a hard-nosed social critic, and a brilliantly original aesthete—all in one. An intensely conflicted sensibility of this sort is not at all impossible; it is just enormously rare, given the general population. Therefore many critics find Cummings’ sensibility unreal. They can’t get a handle on it ideologically. But then again, this is just Cummings’ point. He is a person, not a thing; a living (sensing, feeling, creating, imagining) being, not an ideology’ – Richard Cureton, ‘Teaching e. e. cummings’, Spring (2010)

‘Imagist techniques pushed first the image, then the individual word toward prosodic isolation. The typographical prosody of e. e. cummings is a by-product of imagism: however, cummings goes a step further. Not only does he break down the line into visual shapes and give the separate word rhythmic autonomy, but he fragments words themselves. Each letter of the alphabet assumes importance in the rhythmic scheme. . . . Cummings also writes the kind of shape poem where metre as well as visual pattern make a prosody.’ – Gross and McDowell, Sound and Form in Modern Poetry

'If the original Imagists garnered attention by being enigmatic, she would employ precisely the opposite strategy and stress the common sense behind its principles. Defining Imagism as a movement only in the loosest of terms, Lowell explains in Tendencies in Modern American Poetry that it "refers more to the manner of presentation than to the thing presented," and places highest importance on "a clear presentation of whatever the author wishes to convey" (p. 244). Further, she insists Imagism is "only one section of a larger movement". With this move she loosens the term, making room for Frost, Sandburg, Masters, and Robinson in the above-mentioned book and in her poetic pantheon. Armed with a concept that already has proven name-recognition, she makes it even more pliable, more useful as a buzz word. To Pound's mind she empties it of meaning, returning to America "with the Imagist ark of the covenant, varnished and empty," but I think, rather, that she rescues a term on the verge of self-destructing because of its vacuousness and makes that very weakness work for her. Now her poetry, as well as H.D.'s or Aldington's or Pound's, qualifies as Imagist as long as it offers a clear presentation of whatever she wants to say' - Melissa Bradshaw, 'Outselling the Modernisms of Men: Amy Lowell and the Art of Self-Commodification', Victorian Poetry, 38.1 (2000) 141-169