Musings on love poems, (post) Valentine’s Day …I’ve never been much of a love-poem writer. So many love poems are about falling in love rather than being in love, about love ten years later. Love and taking out the garbage, love and exhaustion, love and cellulite, love and the habits that are never ever going to go away.
Thinking about love poems and Valentine’s day, for some reason, e.e. cummings’ “anyone lived in a pretty how town” kept coming to mind. I first encountered this poem in high school, and although I liked it and felt mysteriously drawn to it, I didn’t really “get” it. Later, in college a professor mentioned that he never really understood how people could mistake those indefinite pronouns for what they really are in the poem (sort of metaphorical stand-in’s for proper names). And that “with up so floating many bells down” was a phrase that stood in for the town’s name. Hah! As soon as he said it my mind lit up. I can distinctly remember my heart beat faster as I re-read the poem, suddenly thinking of “anyone” as a specific person, and “noone” as his wife. (I have to admit, part of the adrenaline rush was because suddenly cummings, and my teacher, had opened up the possibilities of language for me in a way I had never conceived before.) From a terribly tragic (and confusing) poem – it had suddenly become a poem about love … And that trick of the indefinite pronouns meant that “anyone” and “noone” actually become “someones” and “everyones” on their wedding day. How romantic is that? Though it remains a poem with a haunting sadness, I think cummings’ poem includes love through the decades: the cellulite, the garbage, the times both happy and sad – “sun moon stars rain.”
anyone lived in a pretty how town
by e.e. cummings
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 when by now and tree by leaf she laughed his joy she cried his grief bird by snow and stir by still anyone’s any was all to her someones married their everyones laughed their cryings and did their dance (sleep wake hope and then)they said their nevers they slept their dream stars rain sun moon (and only the snow can begin to explain how children are apt to forget to remember with up so floating many bells down) one day anyone died i guess (and noone stooped to kiss his face) busy folk buried them side by side little by little and was by was all by all and deep by deep and more by more they dream their sleep noone and anyone earth by april wish by spirit and if by yes. Women and men(both dong and ding) summer autumn winter spring reaped their sowing and went their came sun moon stars rain