Friday, April 30, 2010

Poetry, My Cell Phone and Mother's Day

I couldn't let National Poetry Month end without writing about poetry a bit more. I must have a much more sensitive soul than I thought.

Lately I've been thinking of e.e. cummings. Is he still popular? We used to get in Just-Spring all the time in school textbooks. In Freshman English, we read My Father Moved Through Dooms of Love -- that poem made me mix up cummings with Theodore Roethke because it reminded me of two of Roethke's poems, My Papa's Waltz and Where Knock is Open Wide.

Why e.e. cummings? It's because of my cell phone. I use my texting feature quite frequently, but I'm kind of a dolt with it. For example, I don't know how to do capital letters, numerals, commas, question marks, exclamation points, hyphens, colons, semicolons, or quotation marks. What *can* I do? What's left: Lowercase letters, periods and the "at" (@) sign. I received helpful instructions with my phone, but they were printed on a tiny brochure in 2 or 4 point, so I flung them somewhere one day during a headachy temper fit. I decided that I'd carry on and do my best, but my English major soul was embarrassed -- it was killing me to send out messages like this:

when will you arrive at gangnam station. im bringing the austen zombie novel. didnt remember about the drabble book...sorry.

her phone number is oh one oh four six five eight one two six one but shes in thailand now.

thanks so much for the pictures from my fortyeighth birthday party. what a great party. im so glad that we could get together. omg the cake was so delicious.

Don't your fingers just itch to fix those messages? Those are the type of sentences I assign to my Comp class for editing practice!

So anyway -- I was cringing every time I had to send a text, but then I thought: "WWeecD?" It hit me: cummings wouldn't bother with all that extra punctuation unless he felt like making one of his picture poems. He'd send out texts that looked exactly like mine and people would be damn lucky and happy to get them and maybe even decide to tattoo one of them on his or her forearm!

After that, I felt better. Now when I send texts, my sparse use of conventional punctuation feels voluntary and hip: In your face! I have an M.A. I've learned all the rules and taught them to a multitude of others. If anyone's entitled to break them, it should be me. What a badass I am.

What would we do without poetry? It truly is balm for our lives.

I've also been thinking of Philip Larkin. Earlier this month, I came up with an idea for the ultimate Mother's Day gift. It was such a great idea -- so literary and edgy and twisted that I couldn't bestow it on anyone. Only I could appreciate such a gift to its utmost. I got my spawn on the phone:

Me: Hello, Sweetheart! How's Mommy's Li'l' Angel?
Spawn: What do you want?
Me: Have you bought me a Mother's Day gift yet?
Spawn: No...should I?
Me: That's up to you, but I wanted to give you food for thought.
Spawn: A book? A movie?
Me: You might be embarrassed to...
Spawn: You want PORN?
Me: No! Gross! I want This Be The Verse needlepointed on a wall hanging or a pillow. An afghan would be OK, too.
Spawn: What's This Be The Verse?
Me: A poem. By Philip Larkin.
Spawn: I don't...wait -- is that the "Your parents fuck you up" poem?
Me: Yes, that's right... Isn't it brilliant? Aren't I brilliant? I scare myself sometimes!
Spawn: I don't know how to needlepoint.
Me: That's OK. This is such a great gift idea, I'm willing to wait for years while you learn or you start dating a woman who has needlepoint skills. Meanwhile, you can memorize it and call and recite it to me on Mother's Day. Isn't that perfect? You could also recycle and use it for your dad on Father's Day!!!
Spawn: Whatever.


Arlaina said...

You are amazing. I love your blog. Thank you so much for making my day so often. xxoo

raych said...

My sister and I use fragments of cummings' 'This is just to say' in conversation. You'd be surprised how often we have eaten the plums that were in the ice box.

Jenny said...

We read E.E. Cummings in middle school and I liked his poems but thought the lower case spelling of his name was a bit silly. Turns out he didn't like it either, so now I can love him unreservedly. :)

Bybee said...

Thank you so much...I'm looking forward to reading Bell Jar Summer when it comes out!

I did this recently when I drank a wine cooler my son left in the fridge. So sweet and so cold.

I've seen the lowercase spelling of cummings' name so much that a capitalized version looks a little strange to me.

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Jenny said...

I laughed right out loud at the This Be the Verse conversation. Ever consider that it's those kinds of conversations that do the effing up? Score one for Mom!

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