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 —

13 thoughts on “Circus of life

  1. Oh to throw our hearts into a full existence! That thought alone energizes in so many ways, and as I sit here with a window beside me, it affects even the vision of things I see. It’s interesting how “heart” can even do that, infuse our vision … To know life so passionately is rewarding indeed.

  2. Amen to that.
    Perfect advice for this spring fever time of year… time to maybe out the old comfort zone, bring in the new and who knows .

    I will admit though, to only going to one Shriner’s circus in Montreal , when I was very small . My aunt spent most of the time with me in a lobby of some sorts, apparently many parts of it terrified me.

  3. Isn’t it a great little poem? So glad you’re all enjoying it! Oh — and if you take another look at the poem — as a shape — you’ll see that the lines form a half circle, on the right margin, hinting at “the round world” and the rings of the circus.

  4. Cindy that’s the most wonderful perfect poem for spring. I’ll be saying ‘Start the Circus’ now and thinking of you every time I leave my garage. Our roadsides are dappled with wildflowers now and it’s hard to drive without stopping to marvel. Thanks for sharing e.e.cummings and for sharing your own fearless joy-loving self.

  5. No way am I walking the tightrope of life, but I’ll be damned if I don’t snuggle up to my joy, play with my passion and inspire others to find their passions and pursue and live their dreams.

  6. Pingback: Circus thrills | Cindy La Ferle's Home Office

  7. I have a collage of very old circus posters circa 20s and 30s painted over with oil paintings of several gost clowns with the pome Damn Everthing But the Circus painted on it and the wouds Damn Everthing but the Circus kind of hidden under the entire painting and signed by e.e. cummings. Do you know anything about this painting?? Tony

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