Circus of life

Damn everything that won’t get into the circle.” — e.e. cummings

I’ve been a fan of the big top as far back as I can remember. It was the highlight of every spring when I was child. Later, as a local freelance reporter, I was thrilled when I was assigned to interview the lion tamer when the traveling Shrine Circus came to town.

And I love how E.E. Cummings (also spelled e.e. cummings) uses the circus as a metaphor for a rich and juicy life — a life bursting with color, sparkle, muscle, and magic.

In another poem in this series, Rumi reminded us to seat ourselves next to our own joy. Along these lines, Cummings rallies against the safe and the dull. His poem is a warning against those who run around putting holes in other people’s balloons. So let’s hear three cheers for the risk-takers and joy lovers — for the fearless ones who dance on the tightrope of life. — CL

Damn everything but the circus!
By E.E. Cummings

…damn everything that is grim, dull,
motionless, unrisking, inward turning,
damn everything that won’t get into the
circle, that won’t enjoy, that won’t throw
its heart into the tension, surprise, fear
and delight of the circus, the round
world, the full existence…

— Reprinted from E.E. Cummings: Complete Poems: 1904 – 1962; Liveright; Revised Edition; 1994

— Detail from “Damn everything but the circus!” (an altered book) by Cindy La Ferle —

Circus act

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“Damn everything but the circus!” — e.e. cummings

March really did come in like a lion. For starters, daily doses of economic bad news are dumping more black paint on our national angst and depression. On a personal level, my widowed mother has been wrestling with worrisome health issues all week. So I’ve been spending a lot more time in medical waiting rooms than I’d like.

Following the advice I usually give my writing students, I try to relieve stress and worries by working on creative projects. I type, paint, scribble, collage, or print my way out of whatever’s gnawing at my peace of mind. To cheer myself this week, I completed a new altered art project.

Inspired by an e.e. cummings poem, my new altered board book (featured in the photo above) pays tribute to circus nostalgia. Just thinking about the circus makes me smile. To create the piece, I collaged an old children’s board book with circus ephemera, vintage photos, tissue paper, stamps, glitter, and metallic paints. Then I embellished it with cheerful, fun stuff — feathers, sequins, carnival tickets, broken costume jewelry, and shiny foil stars (like the ones our teachers used to stick on our spelling tests). Here’s the poem that inspired it:

Damn everything but the circus!
…damn everything that is grim, dull,
motionless, unrisking, inward turning,
damn everything that won’t get into the
circle, that won’t enjoy, that won’t throw
its heart into the tension, surprise, fear
and delight of the circus, the round
world, the full existence …
–e.e. cummings

To view an album of my altered art pieces on Facebook, click here.