E. E. Cummings: Poetry and Ecology.
Amsterdam/New York, NY, 2012, 262 pp.
Nature, Culture and Literature 8
By employing the modernist devices of fragmentation, recombination, and accentuated blank space, E. E. Cummings engages singularly with being on earth. This ecological achievement was largely ignored by the New Critics, and the subsequent semiotic spirit which has been holding that the sign hardly has to do with concrete existence on earth ironically perpetuated the neglect. In this book Etienne Terblanche shows that Cummings’s ecology relocates his oeuvre and status in contemporary discourse. For, the poet follows, mimes, and connects with the unfolding changes of earthly existence and growth—what he views as the ‘Tao’ of being—in his lyricism, sex poems, satire, and visual-verbal poems. This is true especially of the elusive manner or ‘how’ of his poetry overall. Careful ecocritical reading of this active culture-nature integrity in his poetry brings about an imperative new understanding and placement of his project. It further serves to show that, in their different ways, T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound engage with nature in a similar way, thus again accentuating the importance of Cummings’s poetic project to the neglected and vital ecocritical perception of modernism in poetry.
Table of Contents
Cummings’s poetic status and his eco-logos
“What has happened to nature poetry?”
Cummings: ecology or environment?
Intersections, cautions, lacunae: an ecocritical overview of Cummings’s critical reception
The rise of Cummings’s ecological status
Norman Friedman’s ‘Post Script’
Cummings and Taoism
The scope of Cummings’s poetic ecology
The varieties of Cummings’s eco-logos
The manner and achievement of Cummings’s poetic ecology
Selected Taoist qualities of Cummings’s poetry
Two ecological masterpieces: the leaf and hummingbird poems
A modernist reconfiguration? Cummings, Eliot, Pound, and the modernist poetic eco-logos
Mainstream modernist ambivalence towards natural existence: the ambiguous end of the eco-logos
‘Desarts of vast eternity’: Eliot’s searing wastelands as symbols of the ambivalent eco-logos
Eliot’s affirmative eco-logos: his ‘threeness’
Pound’s paideuma: notes on his eco-logos
‘Threeness’ as a key value of the modernist poetic eco-logos: Cummings, Eliot, Pound