Friday, January 11, 2013


It's been over half a century since E. E. Cummings died. Like Evan Connell, he was individualistic to a degree of eccentricity. For Cummings, this became a mantra.

I became a fan of his poetry first, of course, but now I consider his best work to be non-fiction, like the remarkable series of lectures he gave at Harvard in the early 1950s, later published as i: six nonlectures.

Some gems from them.
Every artist's strictly illimitable country is himself. An artist who plays that country false has committed suicide; and even a good lawyer cannot kill the dead. But a human being who's true to himself -- whoever himself may be -- is immortal; and all the atomic bombs of all the antiartists in spacetime will never civilize immortality.
equality is what does not exist among equals ... most people are perfectly afraid of silence ... great men burn bridges before they come to them ... hatred bounces ... sleep is the mother of courage ... think twice before you think ... knowledge is a polite word for dead but not buried imagination
Talking to some of my students recently, I get an inkling that a change is going on, the "career first" mentality that's been around for some time now, in direct opposition to the intellectual excitement in university classrooms in the 1960s and 1970s, may be changing, the pendulum swinging, and once again ideas will matter more than career options. I wonder if this is true and, if so, if I'll be around to see its fruition. I hope so on both counts.

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