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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cummings memory test

Ok. So here's a test. I'll give myself 10 minutes and type all the Cummings poems I can remember (enough of their beginnings to identify them).

in just spring ... the little queer balloonman

I sing of Olaf

Mr u will not be missed

Buffalo Bill's / defunct who used to

I like my body when it is with your body

if you can't eat you gotta smoke

Little Joe Gould has lost his teeth and doesn't know where to find them

Next to of course god America I love you

As freedom is a breakfast food

these little children singing

all in green went my love riding

when serpents bargain for the right to squirm

Plato told him / he didn't believe it

somewhere I have never traveled, gladly beyond all experience

my father moved through the dooms of love

if there is any heaven, my mother has one all to herself [sorry, mangled that one]

the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls

Pity this poor creature manunkind / not

at McSorley's

because feeling is first, whoever pays attention to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you

Ok. That's 7 minutes and that's about all I can come up with. I did listen to part of a Cummings reading on youtube last week but I didn't look at anything C-related this week. I'm sure I "know" about twenty others and have read them all at some point in my life. My conclusion is the Cummings is memorable if nothing else. He reads aloud in this horribly affected voice and he was a scoundrel in many ways. I think the tricks he's known for are not what makes him good, when he is good (not infrequently) as a verse technician.

This is a good test for any poet you haven't read for a while.

1 comment:

Vance Maverick said...

I'm impressed. I recognize them all, but no way could I have produced them.

I'd forgotten the degree to which Cummings relies on affirming things we approve of -- except when the irony switch is flipped, in which case he makes sure you can't miss it.