A Poem For Saturday


Dish poetry editor Alice Quinn writes:

On the evening of March 6th, the Poetry Society of America partnered with The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center to present e.e.cummings and Edna St. Vincent Millay: Two Mid-20th Century Stars, featuring the authors of biographies of the poets, Nancy Milford, whose Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, garnered praise from (among many others) Lorrie Moore and Toni Morrison, and Susan Cheever, whose new book, e.e.cummings: A Life has just been published by Alfred A. Knopf. The actress Blair Brown read poems by Millay and Billy Collins read poems by e.e.cummings, and the audience was enthralled. This weekend, we’ll feature some of the poems by Cummings read at the event. The first, “maggie and milly and molly and may” has been brilliantly set to music by Nathalie Merchant in her marvelous two-CD set, Leave Your Sleep. We also recommend the rain is a handsome animal, a sequence of 17 songs from the poetry of  Cummings set to music by the San Francisco band, Tin Hat.

“maggie and milly and molly and may” by e.e. cummings:

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

(From Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E.E.Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage © 1950,1952, 1956, 1978, 1980, 1984, 1991 by the Trustees for the E.E.Cummings Trust. © 1979 by George James Firmage. Used by permission of  Liveright Publishing Corporation. Photo of Billy Collins and Blaire Brown in front of Cummings (left) and Millay, at the PSA event described above © Lawrence Schwartzwald. No reproduction without express permission of the photographer.)