It's been a while.
First Penguin edition, 1963. No design credit, but Phil Baines, in Penguin by Design, credits it to Stephen Russ, and I'd have assumed it was him in any case. After a long gap, I thought it would be nice to pick up this series with an old friend.
"this selection has been made by the author from eleven booksofpoems; ten of them constituting a volume called Poems 1923-1954, while the eleventh (published in 1958) is entitled 95 Poems."
I was going to say that I'm in two minds about cummings but it would be more accurate to say that I am in one mind with reservations: he irritates the pants off me — because he thinks capitalization is beneath him, and because I hold him largely reponsible for the Mersey poets. And "booksofpoems" — what point am I missing?
Still, there are lines that sit in the memory: "i sing of Olaf glad and big", "how do you like your blueeyed boy Mister Death", "singing each morning out of each night / my father moved through depths of height", "And death i think is no parenthesis". Like Kurt Vonnegut, he gravitates towards a tone of highly ironized naivety, offering exaggeratedly round eyes and a suppressed giggle as a substitute for thinking; well, sometimes thinking gets in the way, though not all the time.
The cover conveys the idea nicely: what draws the eye is those childish blobs of colour, like beads on an abacus; but notice how crowded and agitating that black and red background is, the op art buzziness.
This copy was £5, which is pretty good, from the Old Station Pottery and Bookshop in Wells-next-the-Sea. The flyleaf bears the name P. A. Thomson in a large blue italic hand. Presumably P.A. was responsible for the underlinings: "took bedfellows for moons mountains for friends // — open your thighs to fate and(if you can / witholding nothing)World,conceive a man"; "beware of heartless them / (given the scalpel, they dissect a kiss; / or, sold the reason,they undream a dream)". Random.