provenance: unknown

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Poetic justice

This opinion piece by Bill Keller, in today's New York Times, begins with a description of E. E. Cummings' poetic retort to Louis Untermeyer, editor of Modern American Poetry, a 1919 anthology that spurned several brilliant poets but smiled upon three poems by Untermeyer, and one by his wife.

Cummings, Keller writes, "gutted [Untermeyer] in four lines." They are:

mr u will not be missed who as an anthologist sold the many on the few not excluding mr u

I remember having seen Untermeyer's own name in that anthology (browsing in a used book store), but had no idea of the back story. Cummings' immortal revenge is simply beautiful.

(Keller's piece isn't bad, either, but I am (as ever) reluctant to tangle in the politics of it all. Keller wishes to bid Strom Thurmond, Phil Gramm and Jesse Helms a not-so-fond farewell. "Let's be frank," he writes. "They will leave behind an institution [the U.S. Senate] they have helped appreciably to debase.")

January 12, 2002 10:42 AM

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