First Pencil Draft of "r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r" 1892.7 (121) folder 18, sheet 316, Houghton Library, Harvard University, Used with Permission, Copyright © by the Trustees for the E.E. Cummings Trust
First Pencil Draft of "r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r" 1892.7 (121) folder 18, sheet 316, Houghton Library, Harvard University, Used with Permission, Copyright © by the Trustees for the E.E. Cummings Trust
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When Cummings finally found a publisher for what became No Thanks, he revisited a tension between what his poems look like when typed on his typewriter, and what happened to them when “retranslate[d]” into the font and font-size of the publisher’s linotype machine. On March 11, 1935, he wrote a letter to his Aunt Jane venting his frustration. As he vents, he provides yet another glimpse into how crucial the blank spaces are to his makings: “the linotype(being a gadget)inflicts a preestablished whole—the type “line”—on every smallest part;so that the words,letters,punctuation marks &(most important of all)spaces-between-these various elements,awake to find themselves rearranged automatically”  (see Selected Letters of E. E. Cummings, edited by F. W. Dupee and George Stade [New York: Harcourt, 1969], 140-41).

The above drafts, proofs, instructions demonstrate how each space matters. The final image of the above gallery provides a juxtaposition of “r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r” from the Typescript Edition of No Thanks and from The Complete Poems, thereby underscoring what is lost in translation.

For essays that engage the drafts and proofs of “r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r” see

Huang-Tiller, Gillian. “One Art: Intuition and Typography in E. E. Cummings’ Original Analysis of ‘r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r’ (1935).” Spring: The Journal of the E. E. Cummings Society 20 (2013): 110-115.

Kilyovski, Vakrilen. “The Nude, the Grasshopper, and the Poet-Painter: A Reading of E. E. Cummings’ ‘r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r.'” Spring: The Journal of the E. E. Cummings Society 20 (2013): 99-109.

Webster, Michael. “Plotting the Evolution of a r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r.” Spring: The Journal of the E. E. Cummings Society 20 (2013): 116-143.

Both essays appear in a cluster of essays from the 20th volume of Spring

For an exploration of “r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r,” Taoism, and ecology, see Etienne Terblanche’s E. E. Cummings: Poetry and Ecology (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2012), 49-54.

For an exploration of “r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r” and Animal Studies, see Aaron Moe’s Zoopoetics: Animals and the Making of Poetry (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2014), 77-82.

For a sampling of older scholarship on the poem, see the entry on the Modern American Poetry site.