Saturday, December 9, 2023

the last book I ever read (The Beauty of Living: e. e. cummings in the Great War, excerpt thirteen)

from The Beauty of Living: e. e. cummings in the Great War by J. Alison Rosenblitt:

Elaine’s affair with Cummings took place with Thayer’s knowledge: indeed, with his active connivance. Thayer and Cummings remained as close in their friendship as ever. It was a genuine and deep tie with complicated undercurrents. Thayer co-owned The Dial, the most prestigious modernist literary magazine in New York, and his stalwart backing of Cummings’s poetry was a decisive factor in Cummings’s career. Cummings’s own development as a poet was guided by Thayer’s aesthetic priorities: intensity, vitality, and the nobility of art. The Dial published some of Cummings’s pen-and-ink drawings as well as his poetry, and it was a highly emotional and important event for Cummings whenever Thayer would come to look through his work and select the art he wished to publish. The experience of putting his work in front of Thayer’s careful attention and incisive scrutiny became a part of Cummings’s own burgeoning adult relationship with himself as poet and painter.

Yet Cummings felt that Thayer withheld full support for the visual art. In late life, Cummings looked back on this rather bitterly. A part of him always believed that he should have been a painter. Ironically, the only major collection of Cummings’s art in any museum today comes about as Thayer’s doing. Thayer bequeathed his entire private art collection to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, including the seventy-four pieces by Cummings he had acquired from his friend.

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