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Sunday, 14 April 2013

e. e. cummings: [In Just-] (A Poetry Comic by Nora Sawyer)


e. e. cummings (1894-1962): [in Just-], first published in The Dial, vol. LXVIII, No. 5 (May 1920); Poetry Comic from Nora Sawyer, 7 April 2013 

There’s something about spring that makes cummings irresistible.-- N. S.


Marie W said...

The title was promising enough, when I clicked on it one page ago, it got me really curious, but oh, scrolling down this poem is such a delight. A very enjoyable freshness. So unique...
Thank you for posting this, Tom.

TC said...

And thank you very much Marie, for being the ideal reader!

Our brilliant Nora's fresh new version of this small classic is of course not the first, but it gets my vote for being the lightest, airiest, most colourful and expressive.

This old goat was particularly delighted to find that flock of bright red balloons in the second-and-third-from last panels floating down the page to visit their semblables in a Japanese springtime, as though conjured out of thin air by the memory of the red plum blossoms in the fourth image of the post below (Prunus mume, "Kobai": photo by Fg2, 2006). Happy accident!

And while we're here, some other interesting versions and variations:

e. e. cummings reads his poem

some automated cartoon people syncopate the poem with flair as a contemporary dream date

some stick figures perform the poem in a poetry class

some typography interprets the poem as though it were child's play

some serious artistes render the poem seriously as though it were the quintessence of existential torment... and at 49 seconds, appear to die of the exercise... but then Spring belatedly arrives in a surprising moment of smiling pantomime, and all is well

an academic pseud attempts to "apply post-structuralist critical theory" in order to deconstruct the poor wee thingie -- twisting the Derrida-Torquemada screws until a "scatological semantic field begins to emerge" -- and all is not so well... or is it?

and your favourite version, friends, is...


... and meanwhile, FYI:

The Official Beyond the Pale Nora Sawyer Poetry Comic Archive

Thomas Wyatt: Thought-Wracked

Edward Dorn's Blue Cowboy

Robert Herrick: How Good Luck Arrives

Tom Clark's Baseball and Classicism

Mark Alexander Boyd: Sonet

Herman Melville's The Tuft of Kelp

Emily Jane Brontë: "All hushed and still within the house"

Robert Creeley: One Day

Marie W said...

The red balloons and the plum blossoms, absolutely!.... I always find that there is a link or a thread between your posts from one day to the next one. Chance or choice? It doesn't matter. The road is there for the one who wants to take it.
Poetry comics are very new to me an I am enjoying those links a great deal. Thank you!

TC said...

It's a total thrill to think someone, especially a very smart someone, has bothered to look at any link ever, Marie. Experience has taught that one could put up a link to a gold mine and... who's got time? (The race is not to the hasty, but to the patient... Er, which race was that, the one that has no winners?)

Chance v. Choice: with that apt question you've leapt straight to the heart of the matter (the dark matter, the matter that doesn't matter).

Short answer: I picked that red plum blossom with Nora's red balloons in mind, as pre-selected destination.

To be honest (and because I'm a bit superstitious I've always been shy of talking about this, but as it seems to have come up now...), the sequencing of posts on this blog is meant as a kind of littering of the trail with crumbs -- the image-bits like beads strung together into quasi-meaningful (or accidentally-on-purposely meaningful, or sometimes crumbly) image-threads; though at the same time, in constructing these trails one must always be aware that everyone who takes the time to look will spin their own threads... or not. It's a game without rules, except for the prevailing rule that it is always to be hoped that someone(s) will have fun making the connections (your own inspired private connections would always do just as well, or even better, than my determinate connections, of course.)

With so little time remaining to us here at the Last Chance Saloon, I expect there's no choice left but to take the chance when it comes, and see what happens... staying open to a determined indeterminacy, one might say -- following the ghost of a chance until it disappears into morning...

I am put in mind, at this point in the proceedings, of a cartoon seen many long years ago in a magazine and ne'er forgot: first panel, viewer sees kid running excitedly toward streetcorner where a more-than-somewhat-suspicious-looking balloon seller in a dark coat waits, holding the strings of a tantalizing flock of balloons; second panel, perspective changes so that we see round the corner, where the kid, balloon strings now clutched in small fist, has been lifted off and floats up, up and away into the giddy-making scary mysterious dangerous sky... it was his choice, he took the chance, could it be this being snatched away by dreams is what happens to all of us...?

TC said...

Once upon a time, there appeared a charming, all-but-wordless short film by Albert Lamorisse about a large mute, sentient, helium-filled red balloon -- shot on location, I believe, in the neighborhood of the rue de Ménilmontant -- that made practically everybody's short list of visual-narrative delights:

Le Ballon Rouge (1956)

The red balloon follows a boy through the streets on his wandering way to school; en route he meets a girl with a blue balloon, et voilà... the kids are played by non-actors (the director's children, in real life).

In the end, the boy is rescued from a confrontation with a gang of street toughs by a lovely, protective ex-machina flight of the gathered guardian-balloons of Paris (a happy reversal of the ominous plot of that cartoon I have described above.

Later the trail of the red balloon was wafted round some different, dark and haunting corners, in the sub-cultural folklore.

The late, great Tim Hardin memorialized an intimate (ultimately to prove fatal) acquaintance with a very dangerous friend in this song:

Tim Hardin: Red Balloon (track from Tim Hardin 2, 1967)

Bought myself a red balloon, got a blue surprise
Hidden in the red balloon the pinning of my eyes
Took the lovelight from my eyes
Blue, blue surprise
We met as friends, and you were so easy to get to know
But will we see one another again?
Oh my, I hope so

Played with toys for children, as a child I got
I haven't any time for children although I got a lot
Took the lovelight from my eyes
Blue blue surprise

Bought myself a red balloon...

Tim's song was covered many times later on by other compromised acquaintances; the most affecting cover, in light of how things turned out, may be this one, by another gifted kid who liked to play with balloons:

Rick Nelson: Red Balloon (live at the Troubadour, LA, 1969)

And more recently (this year) there's a fine Mark Lanegan acoustic version on the excellent Tim Hardin tribute album Reason to Believe....

And as we're here... if we still are... can't forget this classic bit of uplift from The Age of Helium... so it's off, then, and... Up, Up and Away!

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

i can see this wee

inginto some

thing pan

Marie W said...

Le Ballon Rouge! Why did it not cross my mind? Those red balloons were screaming for Le Ballon Rouge! What a nice breakfast at the Last Chance Saloon.
A kind of littering the trail with crumbs.... oh yes, it all depends on how hungry we are.

Dave R said...

Hey there Tom. Nice to see you're still kickin'.

--Cheers, David Rubien

Nora said...

When I was in kindergarten, they would show Le Ballon Rouge when we'd been particularly good (or maybe when the teachers needed lights-out and quiet -- the beauty of randomly given rewards is that it's impossible to tell exactly what's triggered them). Either way, the movie seems to have burrowed itself deep into my consciousness.

Wooden Boy said...

I got through about two sentences of that deconstruction and had to leave it be. Something was withering inside me.

Nora's quiet and critical intelligence gives us a response worthy of Cummings. Wonderful stuff.

Nin Andrews said...

I LOVE her work! This one is so perfect.

Nora said...

Thanks, Nin, WB and Marie!

Curtis Faville said...

Cummings's poem works on different levels depending upon your age.

When I first read the poem at about age 14, it seemed a celebration of innocence--balloons and kites and kids playing in grassy fields. The balloon man seemed a comic figure, even clown-like. And the prosody was very clever and free-feeling.

Reading it now, 50 years later, it strikes me that the goat-footed figure is a satyr who might be leading some innocent children into some risky territory. That irony was certainly part of Cummings's intent, I'm sure. The "far and wee whistle" is a flute luring us out of our innocence into the fallen state of sexual initiation--love and lust. In my view, this makes the poem better, but some people who like Cummings object to that spin.