Inside the Oyster Shells

Around 2021, an unexpected package arrived from Canada. Inside the layers of bubble wrap I found two large oyster shells, knotted together through small holes drilled into one end of each shell. And inside that, after gently opening the shells, I found a small book celebrating the text of an E. E. Cummings poem, “maggie and milly and molly and may” who “went down to the beach to play one day.” I’m a contributing editor to Spring, the journal of the E. E. Cummings Society, and I’ve given numerous presentations on Cummings poetry at various events. I know his poetry deeply, and this childrens poem is one of my favourites. For many years when I lived in California I had a copy of this poem in the glove compartment of my car, and never tired of reading it to friends when we happened to visit the beach. I think I had mentioned this to Terry Ann Carter at one time or another . . . and then this package arrived. This treasure came from an extraordinary maker of handmade books, and I’m pleased to share photos of this unique and heartfelt gift. Thank you, Terry Ann.

Natalie Merchants musical setting of the Cummings poem, recorded live 25 March 2010. Listen to the studio version.