Saturday, August 22, 2009
"pity this busy monster, manunkind"
It’s been a week with some palpable darkness in the news here in the U.S., & it’s gotten me brooding a bit. I’d planned to post a Stevens poem about the transformative power of the imagination (naturally), but as the week drew to a close it just didn’t resonate with me. Then I thought of a poem I first encountered either in high school or as an under-graduate—anyway, long time since—& I decided to post that one instead.
It’s a poem by E.E. Cummings, a poet who I think is unfairly pigeonholed as all typographical flurry & verbal hijinks. In fact, Cummings could capture a pretty wide range of lyric experience; I’ve long thought that “somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond” is one of the most remarkable love poems I’ve ever read.
Today’s poem, “pity this busy monster, manunkind” is a much darker poem, & really hinges on the lines “A world of made/is not a world of born” as it discusses mankind’s servitude to its own creations—not just the sinister make-believe world of advertising (the “deified” razorblade), but ultimately the whole impulse to shape the world from a position of “hypermagical omnipotence.” A dark vision in this quirky poem—appropriate, perhaps, as we in the U.S. wrestle with various dreams & creations that have unleashed some rather disturbing forces.
Hope you enjoy the poem.
pity this busy monster, manunkind,
not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victim (death and life safely beyond)
plays with the bigness of his littleness
—electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange; lenses extend
unwish through curving wherewhen till unwish
returns on its unself.
A world of made
is not a world of born—pity poor flesh
and trees, poor stars and stones, but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical
ultraomnipotence. We doctors know
a hopeless case if—listen: there's a hell
of a good universe next door; let's go
E. E. Cummings