The Marginalian
The Marginalian

O Sweet Spontaneous: E.E. Cummings’s Love-Poem to Earth and the Glory of Spring

O Sweet Spontaneous: E.E. Cummings’s Love-Poem to Earth and the Glory of Spring

There is a nonspecific gladness that envelops humanity in the first days of spring, as if kindness itself were coming abloom in the cracks of crowded sidewalks, quelling our fears, swallowing our sorrows, salving the savage loneliness. We are reminded then that spring — this insentient byproduct of the shape of our planet’s orbit and the tilt of its axis — may just be Earth’s existential superpower, the supreme affirmation of life in the face of every assault on it.

That superpower comes alive with dazzling might in a century-old poem by E.E. Cummings (October 14, 1894–September 3, 1962), originally published in his 1923 collection Tulips & Chimneys (public library) — that epochal gauntlet at the conventions of poetry, which went on to influence generations of writers, readers, and daring makers of the unexampled across the spectrum of creative work — and read at the fifth annual Universe in Verse by the polymathic creative force that is Debbie Millman, with a side of Bach.

by e.e. cummings

O sweet spontaneous
earth how often have

            fingers of
prurient philosophers pinched

,has the naughty thumb
of science prodded

        beauty    how
often have religions taken
thee upon their scraggy knees
squeezing and

buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive

to the incomparable
couch of death thy

            thou answerest

them only with


Couple with spring with Emily Dickinson, then revisit E.E. Cummings (who, contrary to popular myth, signed his name both lowercase and capitalized) on the courage to be yourself.

For other highlights from The Universe in Verse, savor Roxane Gay reading Gwendolyn Brooks’s “To the Young Who Want to Die,” Zoë Keating reading Sylvia Plath’s “Mushrooms,” Rebecca Solnit reading Helene Johnson’s “Trees at Night,” and a series of animated poems celebrating nature.

Published March 20, 2023




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