Drafts of un(bee)mo, 1892.5, (388), sheet 20, Houghton Library, Harvard University, Used with Permission, Copyright © by the Trustees for the E.E. Cummings Trust
Drafts of un(bee)mo, 1892.5, (388), sheet 20, Houghton Library, Harvard University, Used with Permission, Copyright © by the Trustees for the E.E. Cummings Trust
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Preliminary Observations:

  • He places the poem through roughly 240+ drafts over the span of 20 sheets.
  • The numbering of the sheets at the top of the image follows the numbering system of the archives at Houghton Library, Harvard University. Sheet 20 contains the first drafts; sheet 1 contains the final draft. The gallery above begins with sheet 20, that is, with the first drafts of the poem.
  • Cummings first types what becomes the published poem on sheet 5, but then continues exploring other forms on sheet 4. On sheet three, he returns to what becomes the published poem, but he turns it into five stanzas instead of three. Then, on sheet two, he pushes the possibilities further, mostly in pencil. We can see, though, two pencil marks, a red dash, and a blue line all around what becomes the published poem. On sheet 1, he returns to the five-stanza version of the poem, but with a different arrangement of the words and their fragments. Therefore, one gets the sense that he may have made the two pencil marks, the red dash, and the blue line on sheet two after he completed sheet 1, as if to say, “No, this poem can’t be five stanzas. It’s gotta be three.”
  • Cummings will always be known as the poet of the typewriter; however, in these drafts, we see him working hard in pencil.
  • On sheet 16, he resorts to a series of dashes and x’s, in pencil, to work through the purely visual aspect of the poem.
  • He counts out various aspects of the poem on sheets 16, 11, 7, 4, and 2.