Sunday, January 8, 2012

cummings on the unimaginable

i thank You God for most this amazing

By e.e. cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)


There is something in this cummings sonnet that makes me want to go all Sound of Music, running with arms outstretched on a hilltop, singing at the top of my lungs.  He just piles descriptor on descriptor, verb on verb, and upon and, until you are babbling white water. 

The combination of reading this poem of great thanksgiving alongside one thousand gifts (Ann Voskamp), that I recently received in the mail from a dear friend, has me just about bursting with gratitude.  I feel amazed and curious about everything lately. The year is new, and so am I.

The cut holly in this glass bottle on my desk – it points up while it pulls down, into the water, beckoning. The late afternoon sunlight pierces the glass starfish. I finger a small pile of old photographs, newly found.

Discovery. Life – this life, my life – is remarkable.

Of course, cummings was not always so vital.  Another reason to love this poem – it is honest.  He tells us “i who have died am alive again today.” He was not unfamiliar with that heavy blanket of despair that feels like a death of sorts. And he wants us to know it. The last couplet assures us: “now”… but not before. Now I finally can hear properly. Now I can see clearly. But it has not always been this way.

That journey from “the no of all nothing” to being awake and open is what makes it all so leaping and greenly and most amazing. Cummings was no Gnostic. He did not separate spirit and flesh. To experience the infinite one has to endure and enjoy the illimitably earth. Such are the gifts of the unimaginable God.


100 Selected Poems by e. e. cummings (Grove Press, New York, 1959)


  1. Great poem. I am enjoying this new direction your writings are taking you. I knew exactly what you mean about "Sound of Music". Perfect reaction! Have a great day.

  2. Hey Wendy, thanks so much. I am enjoying this direction of writing as well. (And I can imagine both of doing that Maria Von Trapp twirl!)

  3. I have trouble with cummings...I'm what you could call exuberance-challenged, I guess. The headlong rush, the whitewater cataracts of words in this poem are too much for me. (Also, I like punctuation. I'm weird that way.) But there are phrases, words, I can pick out and look at and marvel over - spirits of trees, true dreams of sky.

    I really like your observation that we must "endure and enjoy" this earth in order to experience the infinite. Enjoy! Someone close to me (by blood, anyway) is so consumed with enduring; I don't think she enjoys anything. Interesting that my readings in both Lewis and Buechner yesterday touched on that idea - that our pleasures here are foretastes of glory.

  4. Thanks for being open to his phrases, words, and ideas, even if you're not crazy (exuberant, if you will) about cummings. His poetry, in all its seeming excess, is surprisingly structured and disciplined. I'm also grateful for the childlike joy, as I have been one inclined -- similar to the person you describe -- toward a certain stoicism and endurance without the joy. The exuberant expression is a useful corrective for me.