The Poetry Of E. E. Cummings

1332 words - 5 pages

E. E. Cummings, who was born in 1894 and died in 1962, wrote manypoems with unconventional punctuation and capitalization, and unusualline, word, and even letter placements - namely, ideograms. Cummings'most difficult form of prose is probably the ideogram; it is extremelyterse and it combines both visual and auditory elements. There may besounds or characters on the page that cannot be verbalized or cannotconvey the same message if pronounced and not read. Four of Cummings'poems - l(a, mortals), !blac, and swi( - illustrate the ideogram formquite well. Cummings utilizes unique syntax in these poems in order toconvey messages visually as well as verbally.Although one may think of l(a as a poem of sadness andloneliness, Cummings probably did not intend that. This poem is aboutindividuality - oneness (Kid 200-1). The theme of oneness can bederived from the numerous instances and forms of the number '1'throughout the poem. First, 'l(a' contains both the number 1 and thesingular indefinite article, 'a'; the second line contains the Frenchsingular definite article, 'le'; 'll' on the fifth line represents twoones; 'one' on the 7th line spells the number out; the 8th line, 'l',isolates the number; and 'iness', the last line, can mean "the stateof being I" - that is, individuality - or "oneness", deriving the"one" from the lowercase roman numeral 'i' (200). Cummings could havesimplified this poem drastically ("a leaf falls:/loneliness"), andstill conveyed the same verbal message, but he has altered the normalsyntax in order that each line should show a 'one' and highlight thetheme of oneness. In fact, the whole poem is shaped like a '1' (200).The shape of the poem can also be seen as the path of a falling leaf;the poem drifts down, flipping and altering pairs of letters like afalling leaf gliding, back and forth, down to the ground. Thebeginning 'l(a' changes to 'le', and 'af' flips to 'fa'. 'll'indicates a quick drop of the leaf, which has slowed by a longer line,'one'. Finally, the leaf falls into the pile of fallen leaves on theground, represented by 'iness'. Cummings has written this poem soperfectly that every part of it conveys the message of oneness andindividuality (200).In mortals), Cummings vitalizes a trapeze act on paper. Oddlyenough, this poem, too, stresses the idea of individualism, or'eachness', as it is stated on line four. Lines 2 and 4, 'climbi' and'begi', both end leaving the letter 'i' exposed. This is a sign thatCummings is trying to emphasize the concept of self-importance (Tri36). This poem is an amusing one, as it shows the effects of a trapezeact within the arrangement of the words. On line 10, the space in theword 'open ing' indicates the act beginning, and the empty, staticmoment before it has fully begun. 'of speeds of' and '&meet&', lines 8and 12 respectively, show a sort of back-and-forth motion, much likethat of the motion of a trapeze swinging. Lines 12 through 15 show thefinal jump off the trapeze, and 'a/n/d' on...

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