Charles Ritchie, No. 1 from the book anyone lived in a pretty how town, 1976, silver gelatin photograph in handmade bound volume, 3 3/8 x 6 1/2″
E.E. Cummings was one of the first poetic voices to seduce me. Sure, his irregular punctuation, errant capitalization, and typographic anarchy appealed to a young, mildly rebellious teenager. The poems act up physically. Think about the motions of your eyes on a Cummings page; think about your brain trying to herd unruly fragments toward comprehension (see for example his poem r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r). But after the visual grenades go off, a deeply romantic mist remains. Cummings’ work is filled with warmth and heart and that is what won me over; not ruckus and wordplay.
Cummings’ poem, anyone lived in a pretty how town contains his signature odd language (“noone” and “anyone” as protagonists; what’s a “how town”?) but its quatrains lull with rhymes and images of the commonplace; rising and falling sun, moon, stars, rain, joys, sorrows, bells, and people. Repetitive like houses, like lives, like gravestones; I’ve always read this poem as peaceful acceptance of mortality; an existentialist refrain in the guise of a child’s song. Anyone and noone equal you and me. We lived, we loved, we died. Life may be good or bad; regardless, life is.
Charles Ritchie, two page spread including No. 11 from anyone lived in a pretty how town, 1976, pen and ink and silver gelatin photograph in handmade bound volume, sheet: 8 x 9″
Not too many steps away from Cumming’s poem is a short story by Katherine Mansfield, The Garden Party; a cinematic rendering of a social gala that funnels into the most intimate moment of experience. The ending of Mansfield’s exquisite miniature returns us the most essential question, “What is life?” Perhaps drawing is also a means of probing.
Note: In 1976 I created in a book based around anyone lived in a pretty how town. I took photographs while around wandering streets of town and partnered the images with hand lettered lines of the poem.
Charles Ritchie, No. 22 from the book anyone lived in a pretty how town, 1976, silver gelatin photograph in handmade bound volume, 3 3/8 x 6 1/2″