Amanda Palmer Reads “Humanity I Love You” by E.E. Cummings
A timeless ode to the human spirit and the courage of “making poems in the lap of death.”
By Maria Popova
“Poetry, like all art, has a trinitarian function: creative, redemptive, and sanctifying,” Vassar Miller asserted. “It is creative because it takes the raw materials of fact and feeling and makes them into that which is neither fact nor feeling. Redemptive because it transforms pain, ugliness of life into joy, beauty. Sanctifying because it gives the transitory a relative form of meaning.”
Few poets have enacted this trinitarian function more fiercely and timelessly than e.e. cummings (October 14, 1894–September 3, 1962) — an artist who “despised fear, and [whose] life was lived in defiance of all who ruled by it.” And few of his works embody this fearless radiance more powerfully than “Humanity i love you,” the first of the five-part poem “La Guerre” from his groundbreaking 1923 collection Tulips and Chimneys (public library) — a bold experiment in semantics, syntax, and punctuation that established Cummings (who, contrary to popular misconception, spelled his name both capitalized and not) as a visionary avant-garde poet.
Here comes a stirring reading of this stirring poem performed by Amanda Palmer — brilliant musician, writer of great wisdom, dear friend, and fellow poetry-lover who has previously read the beautiful poems “Possibilities” and “Life While-You-Wait” by Polish Nobel laureate Wisława Szymborska.
Please enjoy, and join me in supporting Amanda’s music and category-blind art on Patreon.
Humanity i love you
because you would rather black the boots of
success than enquire whose soul dangles from his
watch-chain which would be embarrassing for both
parties and because you
unflinchingly applaud all
songs containing the words country home and
mother when sung at the old howard
Humanity i love you because
when you’re hard up you pawn your
intelligence to buy a drink and when
you’re flush pride keeps
you from the pawn shop and
because you are continually committing
nuisances but more
especially in your own house
Humanity i love you because you
are perpetually putting the secret of
life in your pants and forgetting
it’s there and sitting down
and because you are
forever making poems in the lap
of death Humanity
i hate you
This beautiful reading was Amanda’s remote and time-shifted contribution to Verses for Hope — a pop-up poetry reading I organized in collaboration with the Academy of American Poets, born out of a restless desire to offer solace after the dispiriting events of late and to create a space for celebration amid suffering.
Complement it with Cummings on what it really means to be an artist, his poetry set to song, the fairy tales he wrote for his only daughter, and this impossibly lovely picture-book about his life and legacy, then revisit Amanda on art, love, and our lifelong quest to feel real and join me in supporting her art, which (like Brain Pickings) is free to all and nourished by donations.
Published June 28, 2016