Now we come to one of the most important books of my life. The one that taught me how to be a person. It’s a book and a poet, e.e. cummings.
Let’s begin at the beginning (you should put the kettle on and have a nice cup of tea). Because of dyslexia, I was terrible at school. I did not thrive and struggled to get “Cs” and “Ds.”
With the ink barely dry on my high school diploma, I moved to San Francisco and got a job through some miracle as a receptionist. I was a thinker but not one who could spell or even read very well. But, bless Janis Collins, the office manager. She liked me and hired me and we’re still friends.
On my days off, I spent a lot of time in North Beach. I liked books even if it was like climbing Everest on a bad day when I cracked them open. One day I was crawling around my favorite bookstore, City Lights. (I wrote “crawling” because City Lights seemed to have books stuffed in little nooks and under stairs so it felt very physical to look at books.) Co-founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti is a poet and, on this particular day, he must have had a display of cummings poetry. Otherwise, I can’t imagine how I would have found this slim volume.
I bought the book. And somewhere in my sideways dyslexic brain the flow of words in cummings poems made their way to my subconscious and sprang to life like baby trees taking root. I was used to being lost as I read. Big chunks of text would be impossible to decipher but, eventually, a story would build. Cummings words spoke to my soul and taught me how to live.
This is my favorite: