Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Monday, April 10, 2006

i'm getting sentimental over you

i honestly don't understand why overt sentimentality embarrasses people. it's not as if the embarrassable ones don't feel deeply themselves -- they do. is it a fear of emotion? i don't know.

i've quoted this before on the blog, but it's so acute that i feel compelled to quote it again. it's the poet and critic Malcolm Cowley, reviewing "Viva" by e. e. cummings in The New Republic in 1932. (I have it because a publisher reprinted it as a forward to "Viva.") Cowley is discussing the flight from lyric in contemporary poetry, famously endorsed by T. S. Eliot, and how cummings almost alone stood against the tide (along with the critically-ignored pop lyricists), and what a rare talent he had for keeping fresh the classic themes of lyric -- love, transience, death.

I have known a poet somewhat younger than cummings who discovered that he had irrevocably lost the woman in whom his life was centered; he stumbled home and wrote, with tears gumming the keys of his typewriter, an elegy on the death of Rosa Luxembourg. Once I asked him what he thought of cummings. He said, "A fine poet, a very fine poet, but, I mean -- there's nothing more up that street!"

(The title of this post was Tommy Dorsey's theme song, a gorgeous tune for his gorgeous trombone. Thelonious Monk gave it his intensely forlorn and shattered solo-piano treatment, and Herb Alpert swung it jauntily with his Tijuana Brass; all 3 versions splendiferate.)

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