Without You, Pismire is Nothing.

In an introduction to the E. E. Cummings poem "l(a," The Bedford Introduction to Literature, eighth edition, a popular textbook for English composition and survey courses, states, "With the peculiar title 'l(a,' the poem cannot be read aloud." This is absurd. Although the poem might be difficult to sight read, it flowers when the reader is able to acclimate to its idiosyncratic typography:


Yes, the reader will flounder on the first recitation, but the poem is far from unreadable; indeed, the component that, initially, renders the poem "unreadable," i.e. the typography, is the component that, ultimately, presents several possible recitations.

For example, one could read, "A leaf falls. Loneliness" or "Loneliness. A leaf falls," depending on the placement of the parentheses, and the poem begins to resemble a common verse form, the haiku--kigo and all.

Perhaps the first line of the poem is the French indefinite article la, as Iain Landles asserts, and since the first l cannot complete the word "loneliness," the reader could read "one-ness," which complements Cummings' modus operandi because the number 1 and the letter l (in the penultimate line) share the same character on period typewriters: "la leaf falls. One-ness."

Then again, perhaps the poem is for two voices, similar to John Ashbery's "Litany": One reads, "A leaf falls," while another reads, "Loneliness."

Overall, this is only a selection of the possible recitations of the poem, but it is enough to refute The Bedford Introduction's claim. Not only is "l(a" readable, it has more readings than a more traditional poem. Now, it is important to quell this notion of the unreadable; otherwise, a generation of readers will trivialize poetry that does not read like prose, thanks to The Bedford Introduction.

Pismire is a journal for these poems, the poems that "cannot be read aloud." If your poem demands your voice or delivery, welcome. If your poem demands the auditory experience, welcome. If your poem demands a certain skill set, such as the ability to read code or chemical formulas, welcome. Without you, Pismire is nothing.