Literature Annotations

Cummings, E. E. (Edward Estlin)
anyone lived in a pretty how town

On-Line Text
Genre Poem
KeywordsChildren, Death and Dying, Grief, Human Worth, Love, Narrative as Method, Nature, Ordinary Life, Society, Time

The life cycle of a townspeople and of one ignored couple, lyrically rendered in nine short stanzas. To stunning effect, Cummings employs reversed word order, almost-but-not-quite-nonsense sentences, play on words, and repetition. We get the coming and going of the seasons; the leading of lives, circumscribed, sometimes small-minded, monotonous.

But there is also yearning and dreaming, marriage, children, joy and hope. It may take several readings to realize that woven into the description of the townsfolk is the tale of a man and a woman, "anyone" and "noone", ignored or even reviled by everyone else. Only "children guessed" that they were falling in love--that "anyone’s any was all to her . . . . " Time passes, they die, they are buried next to each other, they become part of the earth and of the cosmos, "all by all and deep by deep . . . Wish by spirit and if by yes."

CommentaryOn one hand an impressionistic sketch of a town and its people, of life from birth to death; on the other, a love story in particulars. The poet’s technique demands that the reader form an impression and then attend to detail. Some will find this difficult to do, but isn’t this what is required of health care professionals when they listen to the chaotic narratives of patients?
Source100 Selected Poems by e. e. cummings
EditionCopyright 1923-1954
Place PublishedNew York
Alternate Sourcemany anthologies of American poetry
MiscellaneousFirst published: 1940
Annotated by Aull, Felice
Date of Entry 02/15/96
Last Revised 04/17/01