poem index

E. E. Cummings Poetfan: Jeff Urban

Year

2007
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may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

These lines form the opening stanza of the E. E. Cummings poem that prefaces my PhD thesis from Harvard University, a space typically preserved for a panegyric to the Muses who conveyed your mind and soul through the quotidian drudgery of doctoral research. The humor and sheer joy contained within his poems sustained me through many of the dark thickets of Thesis Research.

As a physical chemist, I found his poems to be precious puzzles, euphonous and layered in complexity. And when I was wrong and brain-dead than on those long Sunday afternoons in lab, I often turned to the playful mind of E. E. Cummings for a rest. Soothing, epigrammatic, quirky, and fun. A wonderful balm for my aching brain.

Magically, as my appreciation of E. E. Cummings grew, I came to encounter the remnants of his life in Cambridge all around me. Indeed, my final residence in Boston was a mere 5 minute stroll from his childhood home. This location, which I visited frequently, became a special place for me. And on my last day in Boston, I commemorated the end of my Cantabridgian sojourn with the photo included here.

E. E. Cummings was a tremendous influence and comfort to me during some very tumultuous years. I am E.E. Cummings’ biggest fan because he transformed my dull, monochrome world into a whole perhapsless mystery of paradise.

Jeff Urban
Cambridge, Massachusetts