Readersforum's Blog

May 4, 2013

e. e. cummings reads “anyone lived in a pretty how town” (Harvard, 1953)

cummingspoemsBy Maria Popova

“…and noone stooped to kiss his face…”

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life,” Hemingway observed in his short and stirring 1954 Nobel Prize acceptance speech. “One can never be alone enough to write,” Susan Sontag sighed. “Learn to be alone,” Tarkovsky advised young people. And yet the art of being alone comes with a dark side, the loneliness of a nonconformist amidst the herd mentality of society — something e. e. cummings captures poignantly in his poem “[anyone lived in a pretty how town],” originally published in the 1940 edition of Poetry Magazine and later included in E. E. Cummings: Complete Poems, 1904-1962 (public library). Tucked inside it is one of the most beautiful poetry lines of all time: “down they forgot as up they grew.”

On May 28, 1953, while lecturing as a visiting professor at Harvard, cummings recorded this mesmerizing reading of the poem — let his voice sweep you away:

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