Sunday, 20 December 2009

I watched Hannah and Her Sisters again last night. It's my favorite Woody Allen movie. It also contains one of my favorite E. E. Cummings poems. It's one of the surprising moments of sweetness in the film: Elliot is trying to initiate an affair with his wife's younger sister, Lee. Throughout the movie, I find his character the hardest to forgive; he sees his actions as movements in an operatic drama, when in fact he's only a childish cheater. But in his desperate longing for Lee, he manages to make a genuine gesture that pries open her heart, like the little hands in the poem: he tells her to read E. E. Cummings's "somewhere i have never travelled." Below is the poem, and the clip from the movie in which Lee reads the poem (sorry for the subtitles and bad compression - it's the only version I could find online).

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

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