E.E. Cummings Recites ‘Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town,’ 1953

Here’s a great reading by E.E. Cummings of his famous and widely anthologized poem, “anyone lived in a pretty how town.” The poem has a bittersweet quality, dealing with the loneliness of the individual amid the crushing conformity of society, but in a playful way, like a nursery rhyme with delightfully shuffled syntax.  It is the story of “anyone,” who lived in “a pretty how town” and was loved by “noone.” With the author’s idiosyncratic omission of some spacing, capitalization and punctuation, the poem begins:

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

The poem was first published as “No. 29” in Cummings’s 1940 collection 50 Poems. (Click here to open the full text of the poem in a new window.) The recording was made on May 28, 1953, when Cummings was a visiting professor at Harvard. It is available from HarperAudio as part of a one-hour collection, Essential E.E. Cummings.

You can find the poem listed in our collections of Free Audio Books and Free eBooks.

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Pier Paolo Pasolini Talks and Reads Poetry with Ezra Pound (1967)

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Comments (9)
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  • Gretchen says:

    e.e. cummings and not E.E. Cummings. Punctuation ( or lack thereof) was part of his artistry and extended into his persona. All of his works are published with his name uncapitalized.

  • Scott says:


    I’m sure you mean well, but you are completely misinformed about the uncapitalization of his name. It’s a common misconception, but completely untrue.

    The only original published set of poems that even shows his name in lowercase is the cover design of, “100 Selected Poems,” but even the inside pages with copyright information and all other front matter show his name capitalized.

    The E.E. Cummings Society capitalizes his name.

    The E.E. Cummings Trust capitalizes his name.

    His publisher (W.W. Norton/Liveright) capitalizes his name.

    More recent published versions of his works show his name in lowercase on the cover, but it’s just a design choice for book cover artists. Nothing else.

  • Mike Springer says:

    Thank you Scott.

  • M.R. Stringer says:

    I’ve always understood that the poet was so wedded to the lack of upper case that he insisted on his name being represented as e.e.cummings. In fact, throughout my time at university that’s how it was ALWAYS shown. What’s changed?

    • Mike Springer says:

      Nothing has changed. Scott is correct. And Cummings often used the uppercase. (As, for example, in the first word of the second stanza quoted above.) For more on the issue, see the article (and its sequel, linked to at the bottom of the article) in the Journal of the E.E. Cummings Society by Cummings scholar Norman Friedman: “NOT ‘e.e. cummings.'”

  • Emme B says:

    I agree with the use of the poets name, but, because the author chooses not to use punctuation and capitalization in his poems per general punctuation rules, the punctuation and capitalization has deeper meaning and does not simply show that he was okay with using it. Not sure if that’s what Mike was getting at or not, but wanted to add my 2 cents.

  • Mike Springer says:

    I agree with you, Emme. Cummings’s unorthodox and selective use of capitalization and punctuation gave him an extra tool for conveying meaning.

  • Tom Wirth says:

    This reading reminds me of the voice of the snake, Kaa, from the Disney movie The Jungle Book (portrayed by the wonderful character actor, Sterling Holloway, who also voiced Winnie the Pooh). Both have a wonderful singsong quality.

  • This Is One Of The Poems Which Have Drawn My Attention To Begin Spending Hours Focusing On Poetry.I Dont Know What Interests Me Much(since I Know Much Not Concerning This Genre Of Literature), But Generally The Way It Flows.

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