e. e. cummings in paris

In a concluding section called “Parisian Epilogue,” Rascoe recounts an evening spent in Paris when he and his wife were introduced by Lewis Galantière to Archibald MacLeish, MacLieish’s wife and to E. E. Cummings. Perhaps fueled by a few cognacs, Cummings went on quite an engaging verbal tear that evening. Then, as the night was wrapping up:

     The illuminated disk in the tower of Gare St. Lazare said one-thirty, and I was a rag from listening; but Cummings wanted to go somewhere and dance.
     “Count me out!” said Galantière, “I have to be at work at nine in the morning. Paris for you fellows is a pleasure resort. For me it’s where I earn my living.”
     “It’s funny I never thought of that,” said Cummings. “Somehow you never seem to associate Paris and a job. Think of having a job in Paris! What a quaint idea! But having a job anywhere would be a quaint idea for me, least of all in Paris. Did I say an idea? Why, it would be a godsend! Do you know where I can get a job, any little job—in Paris, Andalusia, New York, or Hong-Kong? I hereby apply for any job that may be floating around. All I require of the job is that it shall not be eleemosynary. It must pay me enough for a bed, cognac and cheese—and, oh, yes! a ticket fortnightly for the Bal Tabarin and two sous for the vestiaire. Vestiaires must live. Two sous for the vestiaire. That’s all I ask."

—Burton Rascoe, A Bookman’s Daybook (Horace Liveright, Inc., 1929)


fall in

Often when writing longhand the letters stagger into the harsh light of the page.


large container

The margins of the poem are the universe.


conditions favorable to life

Like a habitable planet a good poem should have an atmosphere and weather.


seen, heard, felt, tasted...

The best images were sensed—they couldn’t have been imagined.


destined and undetermined

The first line felt fated and yet could lead anywhere.


at the kitchen table

I have a great affection for the picture of Emily Bronte's loaves rising, but am fonder of Tsvetaeva, one daughter living, one daughter dead, clearing a defiant space on the kitchen table. To be torn apart by births or revolutions or both, and survive at least for a time, is a prerequisite for the fullest genuine genius to flower.

Medbh McGuckian, from Delighting the Heart: A Notebook by Women Writers (Women’s Press, 1989), edited by Susan Sellers


making bad choices

If the plagiarist had real talent she would have stolen a better poem.

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no going back

When you have written an important poem it’s hard to write an ordinary poem.


not going there

An aging writer should resist at every turn writing about death.


improbable power

Tiny poem with the power of an atom.



fragment transcendent

The close relationship between the Romantic conception of literature and the fragment was most explicitly articulated in the work of Friedrich Schlegel and other German Romantic writers based in and around the university town of Jena from the end of eighteenth to beginning to nineteenth century. For instance, Friedrich Schlegel declares: ‘There is so much poetry and yet there is nothing more rare than a poem!’ This is due to the vast quantity of poetical sketches, studies, fragments, tendencies, ruins, and raw materials’*.

—Ben Grant, The Aphorism and Other Short Forms (Routledge, 2016)

*Philosophical Fragments by Friedrich Schlegel, translated by Peter Firchow, Minneapolis, London, University of Minnesota Press, 1991.


ahead unknown

Artists and poets tend not to belief in predestination.


not for free

A poem the poet had paid for.


forever forms

You can see a strange kind of Neoplatonism propounded by certain crackpot defenders of poetic forms. They have come to believe that certain poetic forms are ideal forms, immutable and outside of time.


powerful image

The most powerful image of my emotional life is something I had repressed and one of my sisters lately reminded me of. It was when my little brother, who was two and a half years younger than I, died at eighteen months. My mother some days later found his footprint in the yard and tried to build something over it to keep the wind from blowing it away. That’s the most powerful image I’ve ever known.

—A. R. Ammons, Set in Motion: Essays, Interviews, and Dialogues (U. of Michigan Press, 1996), edited by Zofia Barr.


bad piano

The poet often feels like some poor composer who has bought a beaten piano from a closed bar. A few of the keys stick and a couple when struck make no sound at all. For those he must hear the sound in his head.