Perhaps only Dylan Thomas, of twentieth century poets, has had the impact upon youth which has been E. E. Cummings’. There is scarcely a single American college student today who has not read and often even memorized at least one poem by Cummings, and this outside class, on his own, with a sense of immediacy and identification bordering on ownership. This kinship with youth is no surprise, for even his last poems, the work of a man nearing seventy, celebrate the here and now of being, the eternal present in which limitless future pivots to limited past. It is this moment of aliveness and pure being that youth experiences most fully without regard to the relentless flow of time, and it is that experience which Cummings believed to be living, the only moment of truth.
What IS is the present, and living fully requires that one expand to fill the moment, to experience it spiritually as well as physically. Cummings was a Romantic and a Transcendentalist, and he felt that the truth that is always here can only be found by love.
E. E. Cummings gave himself in his poetry fully to the life of the now and the love that gives that life its meaning. His thinking is certainly not new; it is as old as thought itself. Poetry is, however, an art of making new, of giving new life to the ideas that have always been, the eternal verities; and Cummings set out to refresh his Romantic ideas, to make love itself all new anew. His verbal pyrotechnics and...
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