Saturday, March 29, 2014


In the winter of 1961, Cummings's familiar world was threatened when Hugh Keenan, the owner of Patchin Place, decided he was sick of paltry rents from dozens of tenants and planned a complete renovation of the ancient mews, with its narrow curbs and lush ailanthus trees and rent controlled apartments.  Thanks to the generosity of friends and Cummings's furious sensitivity to sounds and smells - he refused to let Marion clean with bleach - Cummings controlled all the rooms at 4 Patchin Place except for the second floor in the front.
     This wasn't the first attack of the tiny mews, which had become Cummings's refuge from the dirtier, nosier city.  Robert Moses had designated Patchin Place as well as the brick spire of Jefferson Market for demolition, but that edict had been overturned.  Now, Marion went to court to fight Hugh Keenan.  Finally, someone apparently alerted Mayor Robert Wagner to the fact that the famous poet E. E. Cummings was being evicted, and Keenan's permits were revoked.  "To a human being, nothing is so important as privacy - since without privacy, individuals cannot exist:  and only individuals are human."  Cummings gratefully wrote the Mayor in March of 1962.  "I am unspeakably thankful that the privacy of 4 Patchin Place will be respected:  and shall do my best to be worthy of this courtesy."
-Susan Cheever,   e. e. cummings:  a life

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