E E Cummings Poems
Behind the Words of e. e. cummings
Modernist poet Edward Estlin Cummings (pen name E. E. Cummings) uses diverse poetic structures in “Buffalo Bill’s” and “next to of course god america i” to draw the reader’s attention to the deeper meaning behind the words. Cummings experiments with capitalization, punctuation, and line breaks to lightly veil his personal opinions with humor and disorganization. Through his unique poetic style, Cummings breaks away from traditional poetic standards in order to express his views on love, pain, and commercialized American culture. Modernist literature is often characterized by its reflections on the brutality of war, alienation and instability, and stream of consciousness narration. The work of an insightful experimental modernist, Cummings’ poems often revolve around the themes of cruelty and loneliness, which stem from his experience in a French prison camp during World War I, but asset his originality in the face of such adversity.
Susan Cheever, close family friend to the Cummings, describes E. E. Cummings’ distinct brand of Modernism as having three parts: “The first was the method of using sounds instead of meanings to connect words to the reader’s feelings. The second was the idea of stripping away all unnecessary things to bring attention to form and structure: the formerly hidden skeleton of a work would now be exuberantly visible. The third facet of modernism was an embrace of adversity” (Vanity Fair par. 9). As the journalist explains, Cummings uses his poetry to connect to his audience and bring a deeper understand of ones self and prevalent social issues. In some of Cummings’ most popular work, he blends his personal writing style with Modernist themes to bring an element of creativity to reality.
“Buffalo Bill’s” (1920), E. E. Cummings uses the popular American cowboy William “Buffalo Bill” Cody to show his distaste of false heroes and their ties to materialism. In the first two lines, the narrator begins with “Buffalo Bill’s defunct” which immediately casts the cowboy as no longer functioning (lines 1-2). The word defunct takes up its own line, setting the tone of the poem by deadpanning his death using a word that should be more appropriately applied to a machine. Next, Cummings builds the cowboy up as a “handsome man” who rides a “watersmooth- silver stallion” and eventually passes away (lines 4-5,8). The narrator proceeds to comment on his passing and questions, “how do you like your blueeyed boy Mister Death” (line 10). The narrator describes his attractiveness and talent before revealing his death in order to explain how flashy heroes are not to be trusted. Even a brave cowboy like Buffalo Bill will not be protected by his ability to please a crowd when he the market no longer needs him. Buffalo Bill exists to be another American failure; a man who was famous for his Wild West shows and made money off of imitating the Western Dream who eventually dies and carries his legacy with him. As Cummings reduces Buffalo Bill from a popular celebrity who can shoot “onetwothreefour pigeonsjustlikethat” to a simple “blueeyed boy”, he strings the words together, changing the way that reader focuses on the cowboy’s quick actions in comparison to his innocent eyes (line 6, 10). By leaving a question mark out of the line 10, Cummings makes his question to Mister Death open-ended and up for interpretation; did Buffalo Bill die courageously like a hero or will he be solely remembered for his role in the capitalistic entertainment industry? In his death, Buffalo Bill disillusions those who may have used his shows as a distraction for all of the ugly parts of society that his audience tried to ignore.
After E. E. Cummings’ stint in a French prison camp, he began to see the underlying greed and blind pride that leads America to war as characterized by his poem “next to of course god america i” (1926). Stemming from Modernist aspects, Cummings combines various patriotic songs into a medley that is both humorous and attention-grabbing which leads the reader to consider the costs of war. The poem embodies Cummings’ frustration in listening to Americans brag about their patriotism through songs while never lifting a finger to join the fight. In line 6, Cummings describes the chatter as a language of “deafanddumb” citing the ignorance of citizens to the brutality of War. By referring to America as “your glorious name”, the narrator satirizes the unopposed worship of the United States and reveals his underlying disapproval of praising a country who you are not willing to fight for (line 7). Cummings expresses his frustration by using humor in stringing along “by gorry by jingo by gee by gosh by gum” to further displaying his feelings of alienation against the powerful public opinion (lines 7-8). The narrator then asks in lines nine through eleven what could be more beautiful than “heroic happy dead soldiers” who went to war like “lions to the roaring slaughter”, shifting the tone from light and playful to critical of the men who died for an apathetic country.
As the men die, the narrator wonders, “did [they] not stop to think… then the voice of liberty would be mute?” (line 13). As the first sign of punctuation is placed in the poem, Cummings wants his audience to reflect on the soldiers who gave up their freedom of speech to fight while widespread patriotism may have negatively influenced their decisions. The poem concludes in line fourteen with the narrator drinking a glass of water; a metaphor for washing away his words in order to put the spotlight on his actions. Through his sarcasm, Cummings ironically points out that the voice of liberty is muted when the unpopular opinion (disapproval of American policies) is drowned out by a symphony of inactive, brainwashed patriots. E. E. Cummings surveyed the world from in interesting point of view in society: he came from a wealthy family and studied at Harvard, but yet he went to war and often lived in Paris as an expatriat. By living as a pauper while residing in the prince’s social status, Cummings is better able to connect to his audience and make his work more accessible. For example, Cummings often adopts the Modernist technique of writing poems in a stream of consciousness which connects to his readers by creating a more casual environment for poetry. Also, Cummings uses his experience as a prisoner of war during World War I to express his dissatisfaction with war, a sentiment that many Americans share.
E. E. Cummings uses his personal experiences as a reference when he describes the Modernist time period in a timeless way that readers today can still feel connected to. During the Modernist time period, the destruction and death that resulted in both world wars created a new wave of literature that Cummings was swept up in. In order to reflect his world view, Cummings adopted an interesting poetic style that he has described as imitating life, always moving and having no rhyme or reason (Norton 635). His audience continues to enjoy his satirical and strange poems because they give us insight into Cummings world of frustration with the rise of capitalism and war. As America continues to change, modern poets can use Cummings’ work as an example of how to make light of a destructive time for America culture so that poetry will continue to serve its purpose: to enlighten and entertain.
E.E. Cummings and His Unique Writing Style
Reading a poem by American modernist poet Edward Estlin Cummings is not like reading a poem by other poets. To understand his experimental work, one must first understand Cummings, his opinions and perspectives. Throughout his career Cummings dedicated his life to the pursuit of remaining in an active state of creating, and therefore experimented with many artistic mediums. Cummings is not usually thought of as a classically-influenced poet; rather his unconventional experimentation with form, grammar, punctuation, spelling and syntax brought him much attention, creating an inspiring individuality. Cummings poem ‘i carry your heart with me’ is immediately recognizable as a Cummings poem as the title gives it away, for he was famous for his use of lowercase, sometimes even using it in his name, as in E.E. Cummings. Cummings was a Modernist, and Modernists believed in stripping away all that was unnecessary in a poem in order to showcase its form. This article examines some interesting features of E. E. Cummings’ poetry, his style of writing along with a stylistic analysis of E.E Cummings’ poem ”i carry your heart with me’, in order to better understand the main idea of the poem which is ideal, selfless and profound love for his beloved.
The period of time from the late nineteenth and the early part of the twentieth centuries, known as the Modernist period, witnessed the appearance of mostly philosophical and profoundly different pieces of literature. The writers of these literary works (focusing specifically on E.E. Cummings in this paper) employed and applied new methods and characteristics concerning style, plot, point of view, character, grammar, etc. in their writings. Moreover these authors also had an extremely different vision on life influenced by years of war and depression, scientific theories such as that of Darwin’s evolution, social disputes involving religion, and political issues, which generated a gloomy and weary feeling to this period of literature.
Consequently there are numerous works that embody the main characteristics of this period. These include the experimental forms such as free verse and stream of consciousness which are the easiest to recognize in modernist writings. One author in particular who regularly applies these experimental forms in his works is T.S. Eliot. His poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, is a dramatic monologue that makes use of extreme stream of consciousness. Also considered to be one of the most experimental poets and the focus of this paper is American poet and painter E.E. Cummings. His use of peculiar experimental word coinages, shifting of grammar, blending of established stanzaic forms and free verse, flamboyant punning, typographic distortion and the most unusual punctuation, makes him stand out amongst the modernist writers. Some other striking features of Modernism is the fall from innocence, denoting that mankind has fallen into corruption, evil, and immorality chiefly as a result of both world wars and the Spanish Revolution, which resulted in the wipe out of much of Europe and the appalling acts of violence committed by men against each other. This fall from innocence is clearly portrayed in Wystan Hugh Auden’s poem “Lullaby”. Furthermore Modernism witnessed the existence of extreme human suffering, which can be considered one of the most dominant features of that period. Additionally Modernist writers shifted the setting of their writing from nature or rural areas to the cities. This was the result of the rapid growth of the cities because such a huge amount of people were moving to the cities from the countryside. Writers depicted the darkness and filth associated with the cities to highlight the misery and suffering abound in them.
It can be said that the beginning of the twentieth century witnessed some of the worst events in the history of mankind. The results of the great Wars had ruined most of Europe, killed millions of people and had left millions more in poverty to the point of starvation. These aftermaths of the war led many to consider that there was no ending to the pain and suffering witnessed by all. This exemplified in Samuel Beckett “Endgame” where he portrays this eternal suffering throughout the play. Ultimately, the devastation as a result of all the Wars of the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries greatly altered humanities outlook on life, bringing into question how God could have possibly allowed such a repulsive events to have occurred. Authors such E. E. Cummings and many more utilized a range of groundbreaking and idiosyncratic methods and techniques in their works to depict the suffering and sorrow experienced my many, and hence, launched a new genre of literature called Modernism. The following information will shed light on E.E. Cummings as a modernist poet, his biography as well as his style of writing with one of his most well-known poems analyzed and exemplified.
An Introduction to Modern Poetry
The Modernist movement was a period of new revolutionary ideas particularly in the field of poetry. Generally modern literature can be characterized by the radical break with the traditions of literary subjects, forms, concepts and styles. Regarding the field of modern poetry, the modernist elements can be examined with regards to four key subheadings: modern or new experiments in form and great variety of styles as in the case of Cummings’ poems, new themes and word-games, new manners of expression, and complex and open-ended nature of their themes. It can be argued that modern poetry is usually described as being highly experimental, meaning that it is a bold search for new forms of poetic expression or rather the experimentation of new modes of expression. Another way modern poetry can be defined is through the words of none other than TS Eliot himself who stated that ‘The best contemporary poetry can give us a feeling of excitement and a sense of fulfillment different from any sentiment aroused even by very much greater poetry of a past age”. Most modern poetry can be characterized by a feeling of anxiety about the world. Widespread industrialization, rapid technological advance, new insights about human nature and the universe, and the general disillusionment as a result of the world wars have impacted changing the shape and pace of modern life for the worse. Poets such as T.S. Eliot and E.E. Cummings have reacted to these things in a number of ways. For example both have expressed in their works, the desire to escape from the modern world and have responded to the challenge of modern life by upholding such universal values as beauty and love (Ramachandran, 2015).
Since Modernism contains the many ‘-isms’, modern poets used many different methods to express ideas and feelings. These included the imagist way which was established by Ezra Pound in 1912. Here, poets would present concrete images so that readers can comprehend the idea and experience the feelings themselves through the senses. Moreover symbolism also had a profound influence on poets by allowing them to express things in terms of deeply significant symbols of ideas and feelings so that readers will be able to interpret them intellectually. Realism allowed poets to truly reflect the veracity of the world. Naturalism portrayed extreme realism by reflecting on the private, psychological, fantastic and the neurotic (Pedersen, 2014). Furthermore impressionism focused on individual moments of experience. Moreover expressionism was a way of pondering deep into one’s own mind and attempting to voice the unconscious and deepest feelings. Finally the surrealist tried to inflict on the mood of madness, intoxication and neurosis to excite the illogical ‘language’ (Howarth, 2012). Finally it can be concluded that modernist poets have ignored all the famous conventions and traditional rules of the preceding eras in turn for the testing of a variety of new experiment. Each modern poet makes his own rules in their poems; hence this multiplicity of styles is what makes up modernist poetry.
Biography of the Poet E.E. Cummings
Edward Estlin Cummings, or more commonly known as E. E. Cummings, was not only a notable American poet but also a well-known painter, essayist, author, and playwright. Considered to be one of the most innovative poets of the modern age, his vast experimentation with the poetic form and language allowed him to develop his own personal style. Cummings life achievements consists of the composition of 2900 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays and many essays, as well as a number of paintings and drawings, hence Cummings is considered a key voice of the twentieth century. Born on, October 14, 1894 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, E.E. Cummings was the first of two children born to Edward Cummings and Rebecca Haswell Clarke. E.E. Cummings was raised in a well-educated family and was considered to be very intelligent, something he acquired from his talented father. Edward Cummings was an instructor at Harvard University teaching sociology and political science. He would later leave this job to become a Unitarian minister. From a young age E.E. Cummings grew up in Harvard yard where he was constantly surrounded by all aspects of Cambridge culture and tradition, with playmates including children of other Harvard professors. He had an exceptional relationship with his parents, especially his mother, who constantly encouraged him to write poetry on a daily basis. Hence his talents allowed him to produce his first piece of work at the age three, writing his first poem entitled “Oh, the pretty birdie, O; with his little toe, toe, toe!” By the time Cummings would attend high school, he was already composing stories and verses by the age of fifteen he was writing poems on a daily basis.
In 1911, Cummings enrolled at Harvard University and would later get his bachelors and master’s degree here. He continued to reside at home for the first three years of education. His studies gave him an in-depth background in English and classical literature as well as good knowledge of the language which would later be of great value to him in his poetic career. Cummings was an active student at University, he was an active writer for the Harvard Monthly journal, and in 1912 he published his first poems in that journal. Harvard University introduced Cummings to a variety of avant-garde developments, like Cubism in painting and the Imagist experiments of Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein. During his years at Harvard, Cummings had rebellious viewpoints toward traditional, conventional art and literature, hence praising imagination, intuition, and the individual. He would go on to inspire and influence later poets to exercise more freedom in their writings. These outlooks would be characteristic of most of Cummings works throughout his life. In 1916, after obtaining his master’s degree from Harvard, Cummings moved to New York and worked at an office job. Not being satisfied with the job, he left for France the following year to volunteer in an Ambulance Corps for the American Red Cross. After just a short time being here Cummings was imprisoned for four months by the French authorities on charges of treason, this imprisonment lead to the publication of his first book and autobiography, The Enormous Room and published it in 1922. After being released in 1918, he returned to New York City and soon after published his first of twelve volumes of poetry Tulips and Chimneys. Cummings is said to have married three times, his first marriage was to Elaine Orr in 1924, then in 1927 he renewed his vows and married a second time to Anne Barton and finally his third and final marriage was to Marion Morehouse in 1932. Cummings took permanent residency in New York City till his final days.
It’s not every day that a writer can change the way people write forever, Cummings did just that. In Cummings writings on hears a voice that speaks volumes to the modern world, a voice warning and at the same time a celebratory one. He was honored with many awards throughout his life for his extraordinary literary works and would influence writers to this day. E.E Cummings spent his final day working; he died on September 3rd, 1962 in North Conway, New Hampshire at the Memorial Hospital, due to his deteriorating health.
E.E. Cummings Style of Writing
E.E. Cummings is considered to be one of the most experimental and innovative poets of the 20th century. He is famous for creating his own distinctive style of writing, one that is still used by many poets today. It was during his years in University that he took a profound interest in the modernist movement. Despite his interest in avant-garde styles, most of Cummings works is traditional. His poems often deal with themes of love and nature and are abundant with satire. His poetry also deals with the relationship of the individual to the world.
During his years at college, Cummings studied Cubism and Impressionism, and was greatly influenced by the imagist experimentation of poet Ezra Pound and incorporated the imagist ideologies in his poetry. His later visits to France would expose him to other movements including Dadaism and Surrealism. Nevertheless Cummings would eventually find his own innovative style, a style that would distinguish Cummings for many years to come. It can be said that previously most writing was built on rules that writers would follow, but Cummings changed all that by creating his own rules or rather violated all rules of composition. One thing that he’s very famous for was his ‘radical’ experimentation with the idiosyncrasy of syntax and linguistic like grammar, punctuation, capitalization, conjunction of words, and spelling. Other unique, linguistic features that he applied to his writings for his own purpose, was the use of verbs like ‘if’, ‘am’, and ‘because’ as nouns.
Cummings poems have a distinguishable 14 line sonnet structure, with a complex rhyme scheme. Some of his poems are characterized by a typographical style, with words, parts of words or punctuation symbols scattered across the page. The reason he used this method is because he knew the importance of presentation, he wanted to challenge readers both visually and psychologically by painting a picture in the readers mind.
Cummings poems were mostly straightforward with a focus on topics of war, sex, and love. His poems attacked certain religions, politics and conformity. He strongly portrayed his discontent with people who followed society instead of being individualistic. As stated by Cummings himself: ‘I realized it’s not so much about words or lyricism…it’s a poem of imagery, your brain picks out what words it can and arranges them into some sense within the jumble of symbols…and you read it more with your mind like a picture then like a traditional poem’. It is this idiosyncratic state of E.E. Cummings poems that drew diverse readers to his poems and predestined him to come to be one of the most widely recognized literary figures of the 20th century (Saha, 2016).
An Analysis of E.E. Cummings ‘I carry your heart with me’ Cummings is famous for his experimental ways of writing, but his subject matter was commonly traditional and simple. Cumming’s favored controversial topics such as war, death, and sex, but his favorite was topics of love and season of rebirth. Cummings has been called one of the best love poets of his time. The following will be an analysis of Cummings poem ‘i carry your heart with me,’ This poem has been a favorite love poem and a favorite selection that has been recited in many weddings and also in movies even up to the present day. This proves that Cummings writing still lives and continues to inspire many.
Analysis of the Poem
The poem [i carry your heart with me (i carry it in] is a deep and selfless love poem. It is about a profound and sincere love that transcends the soul and mind. Here we observe a spontaneous overflow of emotions. There is an outburst of feelings. It is a profound love, the kind that keeps the stars apart and that transcends the soul or the mind.
In this poem we observe Cummings lack of use of capitalization. He has neglected the use of capital letters. There is also unusual paragraphing in the poem. In this poem we come to know that Cummings has taken on a unique and experimental style of writing by breaking certain set patterns of writing. The scheme of the poem is ABAB. [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] consist of four stanzas. The arrangement of lines in each stanza is different. First stanza contains four lines, second contains five lines, third stanza contains five lines and last one contains only one line. There is unusual capitalization in this poem. We come to know that the first word of the title of the poem [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] is a small letter i.e. “i”. There is an unusual pattern of lines, unusual spacing, and unusual capitalization in this poem. Cummings has made use of parenthesis and we don’t find that there is any full stops at the end of any line which can indicate the rush of thoughts. This lack of punctuation can indicate there are no limits and restrictions in lovemaking, in the same way you can feel free from any rules and set patterns of writing, while writing about your beloved. It shows poet’s intense love and uncontrollable passions for his beloved.
Another distinctive feature of E.E. Cummings poem is his lack of the use of capital letters in his writings. I, which is a personal pronoun, and based on the rules of grammar must be written in capital letter, is violated here. We come to know that in this poem, there is unusual capitalization, unusual spacing and unusual pattern of lines in the stanzas. Also contracted forms of words are also being used in this poem, something that is not allowed in the standard writing. Line pattern and line spacing is not according to the set norms of grammar. He also uses alliteration which creates music through playing words like sky of the sky, bud of the bud and root of the root. We can say that, to some extent, in first and last line of the poem, there is the use of the refrain. The refrain is the regular pattern of lines that follows after every stanza. The poet has given metaphorical statements to compare the love and beauty of a girl with the moon, sun and stars. There is the use of imagery in this poem. Here is the use of personification for the poet gives moon and sun human qualities who can sing like human beings (Nawaz, 2014).
It can be concluded that E. E. Cummings was an exceptional poet. His style of poetry, which was mostly characterized by individuality, his distinctive form, structure and viewpoint, his use of traditional themes made Cummings a master of the art of poetry in his own style. Many people to this day appreciate his works for its extreme uniqueness.
Cummings once stated: ‘So far as I am concerned, poetry and every other art was and is and forever will be strictly and distinctly a question of individuality…Nobody else can be alive for you; nor can you be alive for anybody else’. This is Cummings’ firm belief on “the freedom of the individual to think and explore and create,” During the 20th century, America saw a rapid change in society ideals, this was a breaking point for modernist poets like E.E. Cummings to gain their title. After securing his place among the likes of other great American poets like Ezra Pound, Cummings contributed a lot by helping shape literary expression in the 1900’s. Richard Kennedy, of the Modern American Poetry Foundation, notes: “he [Cummings] continued to produce poems of with and ingenuity, of vigorous satire, and of beauty and delicacy well into his seventh decade” (Everett, 2001). It is because of these characteristics that by the time of his death in 1962, E.E. Cummings had become one of America’s most beloved modernist poets, and the most widely read as well.
Analysis of the Style of E.E. Cummings’ Poetry
Born on October 14, 1894, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, E.E. Cummings went on to become an innovative poet known for his lack of stylistic and structural conformity such as how Cummings never capitalizes, how he runs words together, and how he plays with sound. His father was a prominent figure who was a minster and professor, while his mother showered him with affection that may have shaped his love poems. These shaped his characteristics in his poems.
Cummings has often adopted these aspects of his life into his work as a number of his poems feature an energetic style, and often unconventional style with words and punctuation symbols carefully thrown across the page which appears to make little sense, until a deeper analysis at which point the underlying meaning of the work becomes increasingly defined. This style has remained consistent as Cummings’ “unconventional style appears well established even in his earliest work”. This can be seen in the poem as it begins with “somewhere i have never traveled” in the first stanza. This highlights a more unique modernist style that no other author can truly pull off in the same way. Additionally, the choice to not capitalize the “i” by Cummings is used in all of his poems along with this one for the purpose of emphasis. It serves to emphasize the deemphasis of the individual or of the speaker and draw attention to the actual line itself. Cummings’ work many times does not follow with the conventional rules that typically follow grammar. In addition, a number of Cummings’ poems often feature intentional misspellings along with which Cummings also invents many compound words. In “somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond”, the use of the word “unclose” highlights this stylistic element characteristic of Cummings.
Furthermore, Cumming’s style also primarily focuses on running words together. Running words together provides the effect of intensity of emotion expressed as love in many of his poems. This is demonstrated by how “touching skillfully” is mashed together to highlight the extremality of the speaker’s thoughts. These are woefully modernist aspects that ultimately help contribute to the meaning of the poem. This is exemplified by the preference for ambiguity of idea expressed within the poem. Cumming states that he “cannot touch because they are too near”. It primarily serves to help Cummings express his ideas and message in a distinctive manner which often resonates with the audience more.
One of the primary aspects that separates Cumming’s poetry is how he plays with sound. He changes his beat count from different pentameters, many critics ridiculed this and presented him as “childish and sentimental and undermining the progress of poetry”. This is best shown by “your slightest look easily will unclose me though i have closed myself as fingers, you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens”. Cummings’ interesting stylistic choices are consumed by outside influences such as how ‘James Joyce and T.S.Eliot and Ezra Pound, who encouraged him to break away from genteel mainstream verse and go for something a little more idiosyncratic”. These choices allow Cumming to explain an unknown ambiguous but unshakeable love. This is common with E.E. Cummings as he often writes love poems succumbed to ambiguous love.
In his writing, Cummings also often examines the social constraints he believes loves supersedes as he highlights the unhappiness plaguing the English public. He often demonstrated this through his use of nature metaphors which are almost always of positive meaning in his works and used in a nearly religious context. This is evident by as “the heart of this flower imagines the snow carefully everywhere descending” which is paired with childlike curiosity that all stays a feeling of breathless admiration for the woman addressed in the poem. In using nature metaphors Cummings attributes a certain level of deification to the woman, himself being unable to even name some the things she means. The 4th stanza in particular takes the comparison and develops a nature level into an abstract religious feeling
- “E. E. Cummings.” Literary Kicks, 2 Jan. 2013, https://litkicks.com/EECummings/.
- Elly, Meagan. “Decapitalization.” An Introduction to E.E. Cummings / Decapitalization, PB Works, 2008, http://eecpoem.pbworks.com/w/page/9068325/Decapitalization.
- Reef, Catherine. E.E. Cummings. Clarion Books, 2006.
- “The Unique Writing Styles of E.E. Cummings.” Bartleby, https://www.bartleby.com/essay/The-Unique-Writing-Styles-of-E-E-FK843J84CDBRA.
- Spacey, Andrew. “Analysis of Poem ‘Somewhere i Have Never Travelled,Gladly beyond’ by E.E.Cummings.” Owlcation, Owlcation, 27 Jan. 2019, https://owlcation.com/humanities/Analysis-of-Poem-somewhere-i-have-never-travelled-gladly-beyond-by-EECummings.
A Theme Of Intimacy And Affection In E. E. Cummings’ Poetry
E. E. Cummings once stated, “who proudly and humbly affirms that love is the mystery-of-mysteries … that ‘an artist, a man, a failure’ is … a naturally and miraculously whole human being … whose only happiness is to transcend himself, whose every agony is to grow”. Cummings describes love as a mystery in the quote. He sees it as something amazing that is hard to obtain, but once love is achieved a person can be happier than ever. Cummings continued to show the ideas of wanting affection throughout his life and through two specific poems, “l(a” and “Since Feeling is First.” Cummings’ poetry focuses on his desire for intimacy and affection because he lacked both in his life.
Cummings’ work was very representative of his life. Cummings’ desired both intimacy, which refers to being in a close, personal relationship with a person, and affection, which also relates to the idea of intimacy. The lack of intimacy and affection can be traced back to his several marriages. In a biography of Cummings’ life, Norman Friedman writes, “The first was to Elaine Orr, with whom he had a relationship before their marriage…” Later Friedman also adds, “Their daughter Nancy had been born in 1919, but the marriage failed and Cummings lost any legal rights to the child, who was raised entirely apart from him…” Cummings’ first marriage did not end well and the fact that his daughter was taken from him could have been a stressor to his emotional status. Cummings’ may have felt that he could not show affection because a time that he did, his daughter and wife left. Having a child taken from a person results in emotional distress, which he could have through a lack of affection. Cummings’ had two marriages after that but as Friedman discloses, “he married Anne Barton, but their relationship ended…” His final marriage to Marion Morehouse; however, lasted the rest of his life. The fact that he was never satisfied with only one marriage shows his lack of intimacy.
Cummings encountered some other traumatic events in his lifetime. Another hardship in Cummings’ life included being “taken to a concentration camp…” as Robert K. Martin stated in Cummings’ biography. This period in Cummings’ life was very difficult for him because he was taken to a concentration camp and learned the trials that many people were going through. This experience could have been a cause for a lack of affection. Later, Martin points out that Cummings and William Slater Brown both, “were drafted in the summer of 1918 and sent to Camp Devens, Massachusetts, for training as an infantry soldier.” Since they were sent into the infantry the two men could have experienced many hardships. This experience would have affected his ability to show love and affection. The traumatic events would have played a role in his future relationships and in his poetry.
Cummings’ poem “l(a” relates to his desire for intimacy and affection. The poem is describing a leaf falling from a tree. The words “a leaf falling” are inserted in the parenthesis in the poem. On the outside of the parenthesis the word “loneliness” is depicted. All of the words are written vertically with either two letters or characters on each line. The only line of the poem where this rule does not apply is the final line of the poem which contains five letters.
The theme of this particular poem is loneliness as a destructive force . The poem is representing isolation. Poetry for Students makes valid points when describing this isolation in the poem by explaining that the word “one” is used over and over again in the poem. They also explain how the entire poem itself is in the shape of the number one. This is very important in representing the aloneness experienced in the poem. The feeling of being alone could have been the reason for his desire for intimacy and affection. Cummings’ expresses the thought of “one” throughout the poem which shows that he was alone and wanted that feeling of belonging. Napierkowski and Ruby also explain that the words in parenthesis alternate between consonant/vowel/vowel and consonant/consonant/vowel. They depict this as the leaf slowly falling or spinning to the ground. The leaf is falling by itself, alone. When the leaf falls it is dying because it leaves the tree that provides its source of nutrients. As the leaf falls it is by itself, this shows a longingness for affection because no one wants to die alone. If people could die together they would.
In reference to a desire for intimacy and affection, John Arthos describes Cummings’ poetry by explaining, “ Love and lovers, not only traditionally but also as a logical consequence of the speaker’s thought, are seen against the background of, and in harmony with, nature and natural process…”. This is clearly relating to the fact that the entire point of the poem “l(a” is to connect aspects of affection, or love, to the idea of nature. In the case of this poem the nature aspect includes the leaf falling. In the process of the leaf falling it is also dying, which describes the natural process that Arthos refers to. Later Arthos also goes on to describe the reasoning for Cummings’ language. Arthos explains that the reason for changing words and the use of unconventional punctuation as a way of changing the english language is represent Cummings’ emotions. In the poem he puts the word loneliness separated from everything else. This is a way of expressing his emotions of loneliness. A second poem in which Cummings longs for affection includes his poem “Since Feeling is First”. The poem itself looks like any ordinary poem by any other author, which is unlike most of Cummings’ other poetry. The poem has stanzas that consist of two to four lines. This poem is a lot simpler than most of his other poetry. Cummings conveys the topic of love and affection very effectively throughout the poem. The main theme of the poem includes love and affection. The feeling and showing of love relates directly to his desire for intimacy and affection. The fact that the poem is easier to read than most of his other works displays the feeling of love, which is supposed to be light and breezy.
The poem itself makes many references to the physical side of affection. Poetry for Students describes Cummings’ poem by stating, “he asserts that one’s emotional response occurs first”. The poem explains many affectionate instances which include kisses and being in an embrace with a woman. This relates to his desire for intimacy because he is longing for this specific woman’s affection and love. Later in the poem Poetry for Students continues to explain, “In stanza three…He argues that a physical relationship, symbolized by kisses, is more important than gaining wisdom.” The fact that Cummings believes that a physical relationship, which involves affection and intimacy, succumbs the need for wisdom shows how important affection is to him. It also shows that Cummings, over all else, wants the women in the poem to show him affection.
Cummings’ poem, “Since Feeling is First,” was written during a time in his life when he longed for intimacy and affection. Exploring poetry reiterates the fact that Cummings was truly in a very messy divorce while writing the poem. The criticism then goes on to state, “‘since feeling is first’ plainly celebrates — and even argues for — feeling over thinking, action over contemplation”. This statement displays that because of the messy divorce Cummings resorted to wanting to feel loved. Again the fact that Cummings is placing love over knowledge shows how important the feeling of being loved is it him.
Since Cummings lacked both intimacy and affection in his life, his poetry’s main focus includes those feelings of affection and intimacy. Throughout Cummings’ life there were many instances where he lacked the feeling of love. He chose to display those lost emotions through his poetry. The idea of love and affection is a very important theme that is learned from Cummings. Cummings intended to share what he was experiencing through the use of poetry. He wanted people who were reading his poems to feel a desire for love because it could make people happier after they obtained the feeling of love. In all the world can relate to the idea of desiring love. Many people can relate to the emotions that Cummings felt. Cummings chose to exclaim the ideas of love for a reason. He wanted to make the idea of longing for affection known to the world.
Literary Analysis Of E.E. Cummings’ “Anyone Lived In A Pretty Town”
Edward Estlin Cummings, also known as “e.e. cummings,” was born October 14, 1894 in Cambridge Massachusetts where his father was a noted Congressional minister and a professor who taught sociology at Harvard University. From early age his parents encouraged Cummings to devote himself to poetry, especially his mother. He devoted himself to writing poetry and painting considering himself an artist and a poet. After Cummings graduated from Cambridge Latin High School in 1911, he went on to major in Greek at the Harvard University eventually earing his master’s degree in 1916. During his time at Harvard Cummings also studied art and worked on the Harvard Monthly, a literary journal. In 1917 Cummings volunteered for the American Red Cross unit and was sent to France, during this time Cummings was arrested by French authorizes for suspicion of treason due to letters he had written, he was release in December 1917 and returned to the United States residing in Greenwich Village section of New York City where he lived more most of his last years of life. Throughout the 1920s, he contributed to The Dial, perhaps America’s greatest literary journal. E.E. Cummings received a number of awards during his life time, most of which were toward the end of his career: The Dial Award (1925), Academy of American Poets fellow (1950), Guggenheim fellow (1951), Charles Eliot Norton Professor at Harvard (1952-53), and the Bollingen Prize in Poetry (1958). He later died in New Hampshire in September of 1962.
Eventually, everyone lives the same life, leading most people not to care what others think. In E.E. Cumming’s poem “anyone lived in a pretty how town” the poem paints a picture demonstrating people in their everyday lives where they would seem to be involved but find everyday lives of others repetitive and monotonous. The theme of the poem is that though everyone is involved with everyone else, most people do not really know or, in fact, care what their neighbors are really like. One will notice this though Cummings use of diction and imagery in the poem.
Diction is the word choice a poet uses in his or her writings to express themselves. In the poem “anyone lived in a pretty how town” E.E. Cummings uses diction to get the message across to the reader. According to critic Lewis Turco he states that although the poem begins with a rhyming couplet the next two lines do not follow, he goes on to give examples of which words rhyme and which do not;
The third stanza does the same thing, but the forth goes back to the pattern of the first – though if one looks closely, one will see that the last lines ends with the word “her,” which light-rhymes with line 3 stanza , “winter”. An examination of the poem will disclose many other effects on the sonic level, including assonance (“how town”); alliteration (“spring,” “summer,” “sang”); consonantal echo (the m sound of stanza 2); cross-rhyme (“stir” and “her”); and internal consonance (“bird” and “stir”).
Cumming word choice for “anyone lived in a pretty how town” was unique, the beginning of the poem contrasts “anyone” and “no one” with “someones and everyones”. According to critic Marjorie Smelstor she states that in the poem the hero falls in love with the “no one” which then they have their celebration of life rivals that of her lover, as they live life and the rest of the town lives death, the cycle of nature continues.
In the poem E.E. Cummings uses imagery to illustrate the theme of the poem. The poem which is a love story with “no one” who is a woman and “anyone who is the man go about their lives get married, as life went along townsfolk lived their ordinary lives. “someones married there everyones” children grew up, “anyone” and “no one” grew older. Soon enough “anyone dies I guess” since no one payed no attention eventually “no one” dies as well and “busy fold buried them side by side”. Life went on; people continued what they do throughout all the seasons along with the rising and setting of the sun moon and stars. One can vividly imagine a man and woman getting married, growing old, and then dying together from this poem. Along with in line three where the poem says “spring summer autumn winter” and “sun moon stars rain”, illustrating as stated earlier that throughout the seasons and the rising of the sun moon stars and rain, everyone still went about their day as any other.
In conclusion, E.E. Cummings managed to illustrated a love story though vivid images and unique wording to get the poem “anyone lived in a pretty how town” sending the message that mankind can both choose to care and not to care, love or not to love, and choose who is important and who is not important at all.
- Cohen, Milton A. ‘E. E. Cummings Sleight-of-Hand: Perceptual Ambiguity in His Early Poetry, Painting and Career.’ Poetry Criticism, edited by Robyn V. Young, vol. 5, Gale, 1992. Literature Criticism Online, |MCYCNH611850038&v=2.1&it=r&sid=LCO&asid=ffbc5d76. Accessed 15 Nov. 2019. Originally published in University of Hartford Studies in Literature, vol. 15, no. 1, 1983, pp. 33-46.
- Goldfarb, Sheldon. “E. E. Cummings.” Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, 2019. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,sso&db=ers&AN=88829991&site=eds-live.
- Schwartz, Steven, and STEVEN SCHWARTZ. ‘CUMMINGS, e(dward) e(stlin).’ Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, edited by Steven R. Serafin, Gale, 3rd edition, 1999. Credo Reference, https://go.openathens.net/redirector/swtjc.edu?url=https%3A%2F%2Fsearch.credoreference.com%2Fcontent%2Fentry%2Fgalewl%2Fcummings_e_dward_e_stlin%2F0%3Finsti
- Smelstor, Marjorie. “Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town.” Magill’s Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition, Sept. 2006, p. 1. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,sso&db=lkh&AN=103331MSA16199830000618&site=eds-live&custid=swtexas.utionId%3D5019. Accessed 20 Nov. 2019.
- Turco, Lewis. “Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town.” Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition, Jan. 2002, pp. 1–2. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,sso&db=lkh&AN=103331POE10769650000028&site=eds-live&custid=swtexas.
Analysis of Cummings’ Poem I Carry Your Heart with Me
Have you ever met someone whom you feel you are in love with? Cumming published a poem that explains how heartfelt and fervent a special connection between two people can be. In 1952, Cummings published the “i carry your heart with me.” His use of parentheses and grammar astonished the public and gave a uniqueness to his writing. This is because his poetry defied the rules of the language of his century. Cummings wrote “i carry your heart with me” to advocate the beauty and unity of love to his readers.
Having a clear apprehension of the poem’s plot will is imperative to understanding Cumming’s purpose for writing “i carry your heart with me.” The poem is about two people, the narrator and his lover. Throughout the poem, a conversation is being held between the two lovers about their everlasting devotion for each other. In the first stanza, the narrator tells his beloved that he will always carry her in his heart. “i carry your heart with me (i carry it in/ my heart) i am never without it”. In this quote, the narrator is describing how his love for his partner runs so deep that he always yearns to be with her. He wants to hold her close to his heart, so he will never lose her. The lovers then express how they are equivalent to the world to each other. “i want/ no world(for beautiful you are my world, my true)”. In this quote, the narrator and his beloved continue their conversation. They compare each other to “the world.” This is significant because they are stating that their love is so potent for each other, they mean everything to each other. Their conversation then shifts to how their love, and love universally, is the foundation of life. Cummings ends his poem with the same line he started with. “i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)”. This is noteworthy because it brings the reader back to the basis of the poem, that love is infinite.
Cumming’s genius use of language engages the reader to a finer basis on the unity of love. This is most notable in his use of parentheses. He uses parentheses after the narrator makes a statement. The reason for that is to show a conversation between the relater and his lover. “i fear/ no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)”. In this quote, the narrator is revealing a personal fear and his lover comforts him by informing him that he is her fate. This quote shows the unity of a strong love because it represents that love can overcome challenges. In this quote, Cummings uses parentheses to show communication between the soulmates. Cummings also purposely wrote his poem using a lack of space between his clauses. He does this to show the symbolism of how love unites two people. This point is also supported by the fact Cummings uses the uses of parentheses to show a conversation between the speaker and his lover.
Analyzing the symbolism and theme within “i carry your heart with me” will assist in the understanding of how Cummings interprets love as a source of unity for eternity. Cummings incorporates the typical, romantic “sun” and “moon” reference into his poem. The “sun” and “moon” symbol represents how love will never die and will last forever. “and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant/ and whatever a sun will always sing is you”. During this quote, the speaker tells his soulmate that she is everything to him. This quote exemplifies the symbolism between the “sun” and “moon” because it represents how their love will never fade. The sun will always be the center of the solar system and the moon will always revolve around the earth. Cummings uses symbolism by using their love to represent the “sun” and “moon” and how it will never end. In “i carry your heart with me,” the symbolic reference that love is the key to the foundation to life is shown when Cummings states, “(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud/ and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows”. The narrator brings up a symbolic reference to the “tree of life.” In this “tree of life,” the buds represent the coming of life and the top of the tree represents where we will end up in life. Love plays a role in the “tree of life” because it makes us who we are as we are gradually venturing to our journey’s end. This correlates with the theme of love being everlasting. This is mainly because even from the “bud” stage to the “sky” stage, love travels with us the whole time. It shapes us into who we are.
In 1952, Cummings published a poem that would open the eyes of the public to how ravishing love can be. It told the story that love can unite two people together and will last for an eternity. The purpose of Cumming’s writing “i carry your heart with me” was to inform his readers of what being in true love feels like. Apprehending the plot, use of language, symbolism, and theme of “i carry your heart with me” aids the readers in analyzing the poem’s meaning. Cumming’s poem “i carry your heart with me” is sure to touch the hearts of his readers with the deep, emotional references found within it.
Decoding E.E Cummings’ Purposeful Idiosyncrasies Through Stylistic Analysis
Of all literary genres known to mankind, poetry is one form that has an unclear distinction, standard, and structure. Indeed, 21st century literature is replete with evidences of deviation from the usual form of language – or poetic license as they put it. Many poets are going interested in linguistic experimentation in which syntax, lexis, capitalization, and punctuation are deemed to be unconventional and unique. Speaking of deviation of the norm, Edward Estlin Cummings, or often stylized as E.E. Cummings, is quite the pioneer of an avant-garde poetry, especially how he writes his poems in a peculiar and unusual fashion.
With the rise of stylistic analysis in literature, the works of E.E. Cummings are being put into the limelight wherein readers and critics can view his poetry into a linguistic perspective and how looking into its form would reveal a new meaning and interpretation. This paper would look into the poem mOOn Over tOwns mOOn (1935) and will be analyzed in terms of linguistic deviations in two levels (graphological, and lexical levels). Likewise, peculiarities in grammar, and syntax will also looked into the poem correspondingly.
In analyzing Cummings’ poems’ it’s graphology is the easiest to identify, since it is in the most superficial level of linguistic deviation (Li & Shi, 2015). In the poem, spacing, punctuation, uppercase and lowercase letters, line divisions and breaks are styled unusually. These purposeful idiosyncrasies have effectively employed all the possibilities of visual patterns in this poem. Take for example, of all the letters in the poem, the letter ‘O’ seemed to appear 18 times (11 times capitalized, 7 times decapitalized). Given much emphasis to the letter ‘O’, the reader is left to assume that the letter ‘O is the symbolization of the moon. In the first two stanzas, the letter ‘O’ is in uppercase – it can suggest a magnification or emphasis of the moon, showing the fullness and roundness of the moon hanging high and watching over the towns. Additionally, the capitalized ‘O’ may also imply wide-open eyes and mouths of the townspeople that reveals their excitement, eagerness, and anticipation at the sight of the moon. On the other hand, it can be seen on the last stanza the decapitalization of the letter ‘O’ while the other letters are in uppercase. This may indicate that in the latter part of the poem, the previously excited townspeople lost its interest while looking at the moon, and turning into a blind eye to the beauty the heaven has to offer to them. This meaningful scattering of small and capital letters on the poem is only one of Cummings’ usual typographical oddities. He used letters to effectively employ all the possibilities of visual patterns, especially in this poem.
In relation to words and lexicon, it is observable that this poem consists of his infamous neologisms and lexical coinages, through affixation such as ‘gropingness’ and ‘dreamest’. The addition of the suffixes –ness (noun suffix to express a state, condition, quality, or degree) and –est (adjective or adverb suffix used to form the superlative degree) intend to imply newly-formed concepts on searching for something by reaching (groping) or visualizing something in its extreme (dream). These neologisms help in evoking the visual imagery in the readers’ minds. Furthermore, it is also manifested in the first and second stanzas of the poem, its second line is always a verb – ‘whisper’ and ‘float’. The use of these verbs also imply to describe the moon – ‘whisper’ can be a personification of the moonlight, a silent connection between the moon and the man, while ‘float’ can be used to describe the position of the moon in the sky. These verbs indeed are used wisely in the poem to induce an image of the moon.
As far as grammar and syntax is concerned, the poem sacrificed the formal rules of language. In the second stanza, the second ‘who’ takes an unlikely position in the sentence as its inclusion is somehow redundant. However, if it was grammatically correct, the pattern 5-1-5-2 syllabication may have been broken. Likewise, despite an obvious chaos in grammar and word order, the poem has effectively commenced an expression of spontaneity and precision.
Indubitably, E.E. Cummings lived up to his reputation of producing novelty and experimental poems. Despite this, he has excellently seamed words that maybe peculiar at first glance, but will incorporate a lot of meaning and imagery. Discerning these purposeful idiosyncrasies of Cummings’ poetry through stylistic analysis is somehow an attempt to comprehend his liberties in art, aesthetics, and visual style, command of vocabulary and remarkable innovation which he enjoys to reflect his feelings of appreciation of natural beauty, particularly in this poem.
Her Flesh Came by E.E. Cummings: Sexuality in the Poem
Modernism does for poetry what it achieved in every other form of art during its span, in that it tore down the barriers of traditional poetry and erected the new rule: “There are no rules.” Imagism is a prime example, wherein the simple description of the subject is all that is required of the piece, and nothing more. E. E. Cummings, however, often displayed a different departure from the norm in his poetry, and that was to manipulate the appearance of his poem on the page. One of his most striking poems in this regard is “her flesh came,” a sexually charged piece about an erotic encounter taking place over the course of eighteen lines.
Visibly there is an obvious change in direction from normal poetry. At a glance, lines are indented in weird places; words are combined strangely, as well as separated and chopped up over more than one line; sometimes space is added between words; and some letters are wrongfully capitalized while others need capitalization. Fortunately, poetry is largely exempt from standard rules of punctuation, and most of this seemingly random disregard for writing has a purpose to be unlocked.
To establish the sexual nature of this poem, let us start with word meaning. Just about every last word serves some kind of innuendo. The first is made clear by the word “Came,” which is, in slang terms, the past tense verb for “ejaculate”; the word has a double meaning for approaching, and closeness, and the lines, “her/flesh/Came/at/me…” implies the possibility of both meanings as the literal occurrence. Then the reader is assaulted with a series of nonsense words that can only be translated as, “me as sand caving into a chute,” followed by the absurd, “i had cement for her/merrily.” As it appears on the line, “meassandca V/ingint/oA/chute,” certain dirty-minded readers may immediately pick up on the nonsense in the first line containing “ass,” another innuendo achieved through word combination. There also appears to be a reference to cement mixing and sex, where “cement” is a direct reference to ejaculation as, “sand caving into a chute” references the process of cement mixing, or making love. As cement hardens, it could also be a reference to the penis, but this is unlikely, as cement as semen seems to be more accurate. The last line, “concrete,” also makes reference to semen, as it becomes sticky if exposed to open air for too long, though this too could mean that the penis is erect and ready for another round of sex.
Further contributing to the innuendoes found in the poem is the way capitalization is handled. “Came,” being the first capitalized word, seems to be important. If the above is the case and it is a reference to ejaculation, then that would certainly be important, as the climax is probably the most intense part of any sexual experience. Also capitalized and separated from its word is “V,” on line five. V has significance because it appears to resemble the female reproductive organ in two ways: first, it takes the shape of the vagina, vaguely, and second, it begins the word “vagina.” The only other capitalized letter is “A,” on line seven. Apart from being the vertical reversal of V, A can be interpreted as having a resemblance to a penis, with a sectioned-off head and two lines descending diagonally, creating a shaft. It is unknown why it resides next to an “o,” except it may resemble the anus. This is only disputed by the fact that it isn’t placed directly below the V, but the woman in question could be in any number of positions.
We also perceive significance in the way the lines and visually structured through spacing and indentation. One of the more important sections is the “slide” or “chute” that is created by “meassandca V/ingint/oA/chute.” At line five, the poem seems to teeter over a cliff (which is possibly an innuendo for the sexual “point of no return,” where the man cannot cancel his ejaculation), which is followed by the words tumbling down the aforementioned chute in lines six and seven and coming to an abrupt halt on line eight. Here, the poem starts to gradually slow down. Words are spaced further and further apart, and eventually become lines all by themselves, and by line seventeen, it comes to a complete stop. This indicates the rest period immediately following sex, and if the eighteenth line is to be taken as a re-gained erection, then the subject matter of this poem is ready to begin once again.
What we have here is a poem that pours so much sexual innuendo into its words that sex is almost treated practically. The spacing, indentation, punctuation, wording and separation of said wording in “her flesh came” all come together to create a piece describing sex in all its frank glory, linking it to such a thing as cement mixing all at the same time. This is a surprisingly deep and developed poem for a subject matter so primal. It’s no wonder why Cummings (note the hidden word) is such a famous poet.
E.E. Cummings’s and Gertrude Stein’s Modernist Use of Language
Modernist Approach to Language
The early twentieth century was characterized by the modernist movement, which included a new way of expressing art as well as literary innovations. During the modernist movement many writers incorporated cubism into their poetry and other publications. Cubism is a way to construct a work of art abstractly in order to lend the viewer many perspectives leaving the work open to interpretation. Writers used the formatting of their work, spacing, punctuation, and repetition, to alter the way the reader understands a piece. Both E.E. Cummings and Gertrude Stein used new and innovative writing styles in their poetry in order to transform the way the reader perceives the meaning of language and further interprets the poem.
Cummings and Stein both produced pauses in their work in order to emphasize words and phrases, utilizing the way a piece is read to further the audience’s understanding of the poem. In Cummings’ poem, Buffalo Bill’s, he constructed his stanzas with lengthy spaces that create pauses to slow the reader, accentuating the severity of each phrase. The seventh line of the poem simply reads “Jesus,” and is indented at the end of the line to create a long silence and emphasize the exclamation (Cummings). Stein, however, composed the passages within her publication, Tender Buttons, with commas separating thoughts and descriptions. For example, Stein described Mildred’s umbrella as “A cause and no curve, a cause and loud enough, a cause and extra loud crash, and an extra wagon, a sign of extra, a sac a small sac an established color and cunning, a slender grey and no ribbon, this means a loss a great loss a restitution” (Stein 6). The entire description completes almost four lines with each idea separated by a comma instead of a few sentences. Stein used this convention to highlight each phrase describing the umbrella; each phrase is equal, giving the description a sense of abstraction, affording the reader different perceptions.
Both Cummings and Stein also used the formatting of words to occasionally speed up their poems. The fifth line of Buffalo Bill’s appears to be the longest however contains few spaces between words. Cummings described how Buffalo Bill rides a stallion and would “…break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat” (Cummings). Cummings strung up to five words together and quickened the pace to accentuate the importance of phrases. In addition to lengthy sentences separated by commas, Stein integrated short concise sentences that quickened passages and stressed the importance of various descriptions. The two writers incorporated an experimental way of formatting the language in their poems to give their works different meanings, thus lending the reader various perspectives.
In addition to formatting their work to accentuate passages for the reader, both Cummings and Stein utilized repetition in order to underscore a detail they felt was important. Stein sometimes incorporated repetition more literally than Cummings. Stein described sound as “reckless reckless rats, this is this” (Stein 15). Stein repeated specific words and sounds she felt were important in her description. She also encompassed alliterations in her work to stress sounds as Cummings did in Buffalo Bill’s. He described Buffalo Bill’s horse as “a watersmooth-silver stallion” (Cummings). For both Stein and Cummings repetition transformed language to give specific phrases different meanings that are open to interpretation and variation in perspectives.
Cummings and Stein constructed their literary works with experimental ways of transforming language to lend different viewpoints to readers. Both authors incorporated cubism; they wrote their poetry abstractly to leave the work open to the audience’s interpretation. Stein and Cummings transformed language by utilizing spacing, repetition of words and sounds, and punctuation. Stein and Cummings were revolutionary the twentieth century; they used an experimental construction of language to change the way the audience perceived their works of literature.
Innocent Love in E.E. Cummings’s Poem Since Feeling is First
The concept of love is widely explored in literature, ranging from captivating odes about admirers to sorrow-filled compositions describing the loss of a sweetheart. Taking a charming spin on love, E. E. Cummings’ poem, “since feeling is first,” uses comparison to show that romance is propelled by the theme of purity, ultimately persuading his audience to follow their hearts over their minds when it comes to real-world love. The poet mainly focuses on the difference between a man whose center lies in wisdom versus a man who is in tune with his emotions, where the latter greatly prospers over the former when pursuing romance.
Cummings’ first and second stanzas displays the differences between a man who overanalyzes situations and another who lets his feelings rule over his life. He initially states, “since feeling is first” (Cummings 1), starting his poem, as well as titling his piece, with a claim that emotions come before all other senses. Especially in a romantic context, as Cummings writes about, the act of identifying and acting upon one’s feelings is essential. As a relationship stems from proclaimed affection, the thoughts that inhabit the mind are more propelled by the soul than logic. By following his heart, Cummings maintains a sense of purity and innocence, reveling in contentment with the company of his lover. The next lines state, “who pays any attention/to the syntax of things/will never wholly kiss you” (2-4), where Cummings provides reasoning for his original claim of feelings coming first. He displays two differing tones between these lines, putting down the egos of others while showing boundless affection for his lover. The love of his life stands as a treasure, where he defensively guards her against those who are more logically inclined, as they do not prove worthy. Fittingly, Cummings’ mention of syntax follows through in his writing, which lacks a complete usage of capitalization and punctuation. The formed sentences are broken up into lines, yet are not composed of the same format throughout. Whereas the start of some phrases are properly capitalized, others begin with lowercase letters and are not preceded by any punctuation, creating differences in the poem’s composition. In this oddly-formatted style lies a mockery of those individuals guided by logic; although Cummings initially deems them undeserving of his lover, he furthers this by satirically poking fun at their overflowing intelligence directly through his writing. Through the humorous ridicule, he warns his readers against using knowledge to uncover the depths of romance. Instead of prospering through an authentic life, those who spend their time dwelling on logic waste away their time, missing opportunities to pursue an ideal romance.
Differing from the men who are propelled by logic, Cummings finds himself to be a man of pure emotion. He refers to himself in “wholly to be a fool/while Spring is in the world” (5-6), contrasting with other men who find themselves more involved with knowledge. When he is in the presence of his lover, he is overwhelmed by her beauty and begins to stutter and bumble through his words. Whereas some men are puzzled by intelligence and education, Cummings finds himself curiously dwelling on the charming woman in his life. The referral to “Spring” (6) symbolizes the lover, representing her encompassing attraction to Cummings as a season. With a mention of spring, the themes of purity and fertility come to mind, regarding the falling of cherry blossoms, the blooming of a first love, and the gradual perking up of greenery when warm weather strikes. Emphasized by the usage of the word “lady” (10), the aura of the woman is filled with a teeming feminine innocence, which influences Cummings in choosing emotions over logic. He makes his intentions resonate with the woman he loves, going so far as to make “[his] blood [approve]” (7), making the relationship go past a mere physical state. As “Spring” (6) is capitalized, the concept of religion is brought upon the romance, putting an emphasis on the ethereal image of the woman. Just like God is always capitalized in scripture, the same importance is given by Cummings unto his lady, ultimately raising her on a pedestal. To amend these assertions, he claims to “swear by all flowers” (10). Here, there is a mention of the epitomal representation of the season, as spring would not appear the same without the image of multicolored flowers. Cummings promises his lady that he is telling the truth by personally bringing her essence into the deal, displaying complete confidence in his words. With his utter devotion to his lover, Cummings relays the message of pursuing romance with a sense of purity to his audience. With his outspoken certainty, it is difficult to both refute his claims and see the superiority of logic over emotions in a battle of romance.
While arguing that emotions rule over intelligence, Cummings emphasizes the additional potential in making the most out of life by seeking happiness, even in dreadful situations. He states, “Don’t cry/—the best gesture of my brain is less than/your eyelids’ flutter which says/we are for eachother” (10-13), bringing forth the claim that any form of intelligence pales in comparison to something as simple as a blink of an eye. This logic sinks down even further with the stark contrast between his lover’s tears and the trivial flutter of her eyelids, deeming knowledge in an even more insignificant fashion. Cummings compares a moment in reality with a train of thought, diminishing the latter so that it eventually becomes obsolete. He finds real-life moments to be more essential than those in the minds of others, sending forth the message to take advantage of reality rather than be consumed with thoughts. Additionally, his plea of telling his lover not to cry indicates that he does not want to see her in a state of misery. When she is overwhelmed with sorrow, Cummings cannot help but feel the same way, as they exist in harmony and “are for each other” (13). He conveys the message that reality should be filled with joyous moments, rather than times of wallowing and heartache. Instead of existing in worry, Cummings wants his lover to “then laugh, leaning back in [his] arms” (13-14), and embrace the bliss of existence. Finding the world to be a place of happiness while lacking logic, he wants his other half to experience the world as he does. Once again, there is a recurring theme of innocence, where Cummings simply seems to look for his own definition of romantic happiness in a perfect world. A playful factor remains in this outlook, as he imposes his wonderment unto his significant other, just as a child would humorously affect the people around him with an infectious laugh. By climbing over hardships and replacing them with moments of comfort, Cummings tells his readers to embrace the joys of life and romanticize this notion of happiness. Propelled by an innocent lifestyle, his audience is influenced to turn aspects of their amorous relationships into a positive utopia, just as Cummings does himself.
Just as much as Cummings enforces positivity onto the romantic aspects of his life, he also finds a contrast between a long-lived reality and the eternal concept of death. When he states, “then/laugh, leaning back in my arms/for life’s not a paragraph” (13-15), he embraces the positive aspects of life, as mentioned previously. Cummings does so with the intention that life is filled with these innocent moments, and he has time to make the absolute best for himself and his lover. With the comparison to a paragraph, Cummings implies that the series of sentences forms a simple-minded argument — one that is easy to understand. Although paragraphs may be detailed and eloquent when deeply analyzed, they merely consist of tiny segments of letters and punctuation tied together to prove a point. On the other hand, Cummings makes a claim that life is nothing like this simple chunk of text, instead focusing on the intricacy of a human life, consisting of thousands on thousands of paragraphs. However, regardless of this long-lived reality, he makes the best out of the entire situation, making sure he and his lover are always content and embraced in romance. The last stanza of his poem, where he states, “And death i think is no parenthesis” (16), showcases this encompassing happiness. The usage of parenthesis in a text displays a comment that is seemingly relevant, but can also be ignored and opted out. When Cummings states that death starkly contrasts with this form of punctuation, he implies that it cannot be omitted and disregarded. The premonition of mortality is everlasting, no matter how long life continues on for, which subtly offers a darker tone in comparison to the pure image of his poem so far. Instead of showcasing a theme of “carpe diem” throughout the poem, where the thought of the future is completely disregarded, Cummings instead brings forth a reality check. Although some may find happiness in ignoring death, he offers a counterargument, where the idea of mortality ironically forces people to live in contentment. Cummings always finds positivity in his romantic life not only because he enjoys embracing joy constantly, but also due to the fact that death is unpredictable. He lives in contentment knowing that one day, he or his lover will perish from the world, leaving the other paralyzed with grief. Hoping to make the most out of the time he is with his significant other, Cummings embraces the grim reality of death and asks his readers to do the same. Living every day in happiness is a goal that he hopes his audience takes advantage of, as their near futures are all unclear and foggy, just like his own.
In conclusion, Cummings relays the message that the notion of love is driven by putting emotions over logic, which allows the relationship to form in purity. By comparing and contrasting the ideas brought up in the poem, readers are given a first-hand look into the joy-filled romance of Cummings and his lover, darkly propelled by the feeling of forthcoming death. In a way, this final mention of mortality offers a contrasting view on the overall innocence of the poem. Readers are forced to ask themselves what Cummings intended to do with this last stanza, which seemingly appears to break down the entire meaning of the poem that he has composed so far. There is a possibility that hidden underneath the veil of contentment, there always lies a thin layer of fear and concern. Perhaps he offers this opinion to show that no matter how often people encompass themselves in happiness and joy, there is never an entirety of that single emotion. Cummings’ original statement of emotions ruling over logic still remains, yet there is an underlying remark that this feeling cannot live up to its entire potential.