Is uses an assortment of tools for

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Is the of style e. e. cummings’ poetry its true genius, or the very reason the works should be called drivel? Alfred Kazin says that the poet’s style is “arrogant” and “slap stick” and that cummings is “the duality of the traditionalist and the clown”(155). Others, such as Richard P. Blackmur, say his technique is an insult to the writing profession. He says that cummings’ poetry would only appeal to those with a “childish spirit”(140). It was Mark Van Doren, though, who probably said the truth about cummings. “He has a richly sensuous mind; his verse is distinguished by fluidity and weight; he is equipped to range lustily and long among the major passions”(140) Through examples of his work, “from spiralling ecstatically this,” Buffalo Bill’s,” “next to of course god america I,” and “whippoorwill this,” it can be show that cummings is a deliberate, inventive, and precise poet who uses his own, unique style.
Style throughout cummings work is usually difficult to piece together and the works’ meanings are even harder to decipher, but they all conjure the reader to think. Cummings uses an assortment of tools for his style. In “from spiralling ecstatically this” cummings uses imaginative new words and line breaks. Cummings creates the word “unmiracle” in line five. This word implies destruction of what has just taken place, the birth of a baby. “Perhapsless” is another new word, also of pessimistic connotations. Perhaps is a hopeful word, meaning there is a chance, “perhapsless” implies that failure is inevitable and that trying is futile. The line breaks of this poem were meant to emphasize the single lines of the poem. “From spiralling ecstatically this” suggests that one is going throughout life with no sense of direction or meaning. “Perhapsless mystery of paradise” implies that the afterlife is non existent. “Whose only secret all creation sings” is that the mother’s “love provides the universal rhythm . . . despite man’s attempt to change or stop the rhythm, it marks the limits on his destructive power” (Powers 237) and who knows what lies beyond.
In “Buffalo Bill’s” cummings’ style not only includes line breaks, but run on and joined words as well. His line breaks and technique of separating words is a precise and deliberate method which causes the reader to think. Separating “defunct” by itself could also mean death (Dilworth 176). Using the word Jesus in a place by itself with a long space, indicating a pause, before and after it, indicate that it is not being used to describe Jesus Christ, but rather as an expression of amazement and awe, common in everyday speech. Cummings, throughout this poem, uses space in order to indicate pauses, much as a comma would do. In this poem he also uses run on and joined words to emphasize description of Buffalo Bill. In line four of the poem cummings wrote “watersmooth-silver” to describe the stallion in line five. The combination of the words are referring to the fluidity and grace of the mighty stallion, but suggest that it is a coward by describing its blood as water. This image does not coincide with the masculinity Buffalo Bill, himself, portrayed by not acting like a coward. Silver, used in conjunction with watersmooth, that described the stallion, Dilworth stated, could also refer to the “silver-haired Bill Cody in old age”(175). Cummings also uses the combined words “onetwothreefourfive” and “pigeonsjustlikethat.” These emphasize what made Buffalo Bill famous in the first place, his sharp-shooting as well as the diction of the speaker. “Onetwothreefourfive” is the speed of which he can draw his gun and nearly empty it destroying “pigeons-justlikethat.” “Pigeonsjustlikethat” are the clay pigeons that Cody destroyed while perfecting his shooting.
In “next to of course god america I” cummings uses popular clichs, a run on word, and a line break in the poem for his style choice. In the beginning section of the poem he uses no punctuation except for the quotation marks, an apostrophes and a question mark. This is so the lines run into each other, creating a sense of confusion. The lines in the poem are a collection of clichs that have been used throughout the years describing patriotism for this country or phrases that have been used in everyday life. Cummings discusses his feelings toward a nation’s attitude of war, through the quotation of clichs. He could not understand why this nation would send our troops off to “the roaring slaughter.” His writings suggests the question of whether this country has nothing better for its young men than to send them off to die in war. There is also a run on word present in the quotation, “deafanddumb.” This is done to show how closely related these two words are and that society, at the time, viewed them both as one and the same. It was also what the hierarchy of this nation felt regarding the average intelligence of the common man. There is a line break that separates the last line from the body of the poem. The unusual aspect of this is that cummings capitalized the “H” in “He” and used a period. The capitalized letter is startling because cummings, who is so modest that he had his name legally changed to all lower case letters, never thought any human was important enough to have capitalized letters in the pronoun form. The period was also amazing because cummings never uses them in their prescribed manner, yet he does so in this poem.
In “whippoorwill this” the style again includes run on words and this time cummings also uses inventive, original words as well as line breaks. In this poem there are two run on words, the first is “whippoorwill,” followed by “moonday.” When one thinks of the word whippoorwill, one thinks of the bird, but that is not so in this case. Don Jobe said “‘whippoorwill’ may be split into three separate words: whip, poor and will. . . . The reader may attribute ‘will’ to a man’s will, thus ‘whip’ and ‘poor’ become adjectives possibly meaning fate and weakness”(48). Jobe continues to explain that “moonday” is actually night, since that is when the moon rises and sets.
Cummings also uses inventive, self made words in this work. “Unthings” in the poem are the humans that occupy this planet (Jobe 48). Humans are nothing when compared to the vastness of this universe and the universe itself doesn’t recognize people or have any obligation towards them. “Threeing” is another new word in this poem that has an assortment of possible meanings. It has been said that “threeing” is man “living in the three dimensions of the physical universe”( 48). Humans are only allowed, for now, to understand and comprehend three dimensions, so that when cummings wrote “threeing alive” in line seven of his poem he means that that is how humans live for now, that is their lifestyle. The line breaks in this poem allow the reader to indulge in their thoughts on this work. There is a set pattern in this poem of one line, two lines, one line for the stanzas. Each line, or group of lines, though has it own significance to the poem.
This poet has been admired for decades for his style of writing and the thoughts he provokes. Critics write about his work and are still trying to understand him still, even though he has been dead for nearly three decades. Cummings poetry style is unique because of the tools he uses. The run on and joined words, the punctuation, line breaks and original words are all part of his style. He is not an snooty, comedic, or childish write, his works are precise, inventive and deliberate. Cummings is a wonderful poet who lets the pen speak for itself.


Bibliography:
Works Cited
Blackmur, Richard P. “Notes on E. E. Cummings’ Language.” Contemporary LiteracyCriticism. Eds. Dedria Bry Fonski and Phyllis Carmel Mendelson. Vol. 12.Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1980: 140-141.
cummings, e. e. “next to of course god america I.” Complete Poems 1904-1962. Ed.George J. Firmage. New York: Liverright, 1991: 267.
cummings, e. e. “Buffalo Bill’s.” Complete Poems 1904-1962. Ed. George J. Firmage.New York: Liverright, 1991: 90.
cummings, e. e. “from spiralling ecstatically this.” Complete Poems 1904-1962. Ed.George J. Firmage. New York: Liverright, 1991: 714.
cummings, e. e. “whippoorwill this.” Complete Poems 1904-1962. Ed. George J.Firmage. New York: Liverright, 1991: 751.
Dilworth, Thomas. “Cummings’s ‘Buffalo Bill’s'” Explicator 53 Spring (1994): 175-176.
Jobe, Don. “Cummings’ Whippoorwill This.” Explicator 42 Fall (1983): 48-49.
Kazin, Alfred. “E. E. Cummings and his Fathers.” Contemporary Literacy Criticism. Eds.Dedria Bry Fonski and Phyllis Carmel Mendelson. Vol. I Detroit: Gale ResearchInc., 1978: 155.
Powers, Kate. “cummings’s From Spiralling Ecstatically This.” Explicator49 Summer(1991) : 235-237.
Van Doren, Mark. “First Glance.” Contemporary Literacy Criticism. Eds. Dedria BryFonskiand Phyllis Carmel Mendelson. Vol. XII. Detroit: Gale Research Inc.,1980: 139-140.
Bibliography
Blackmur, Richard P. “Notes on E. E. Cummings’ Language.” Contemporary LiteracyCriticism. Eds. Dedria Bry Fonski and Phyllis Carmel Mendelson. Vol. XIIDetroit: Gale Research Inc., 1980: 140-141.
cummings, e. e. Complete Poems 1904-1962. Ed. George J. Firmage. New York:Liverright, 1991.
Dilworth, Thomas. “Cummings’s ‘Buffalo Bill’s’.” Explicator 53 Spring (1994): 175-176.
Jobe, Don. “Cummings’ WHIPPOORWILL THIS.” Explicator 42 Fall (1983): 48-49.
Kazin, Alfred. “E. E. Cummings and his Fathers.” Contemporary Literacy Criticism. Eds.Dedria Bry Fonski and Phyllis Carmel Mendelson. Vol. I Detroit: Gale ResearchInc., 1978: 155.
Literature and the Writing Process. Eds. Elizabeth McMahan, Susan X Day, and RobertFunk. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice, 1996.
Powers, Kate. “cummings’s From Spiralling Ecstatically This.” Explicator 49 Summer(1991) : 235-237.
Van Doren, Mark. “First Glance.” Contemporary Literacy Criticism. Eds. Dedria BryFonski and Phyllis Carmel Mendelson. Vol. XII. Detroit: Gale Research Inc.,1980: 139-140.

Categories: Lifestyle

The !blac, and swi( – illustrate the

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The Poetry of E. E. Cummings
E. E. Cummings, who was born in 1894 and died in 1962, wrote many
poems with unconventional punctuation and capitalization, and unusual
line, word, and even letter placements – namely, ideograms. Cummings’
most difficult form of prose is probably the ideogram; it is extremely
terse and it combines both visual and auditory elements. There may be
sounds or characters on the page that cannot be verbalized or cannot
convey the same message if pronounced and not read. Four of Cummings’
poems – l(a, mortals), !blac, and swi( – illustrate the ideogram form
quite well. Cummings utilizes unique syntax in these poems in order to
convey messages visually as well as verbally.


Although one may think of l(a as a poem of sadness and
loneliness, Cummings probably did not intend that. This poem is about
individuality – oneness (Kid 200-1). The theme of oneness can be
derived from the numerous inezces and forms of the number ‘1’
throughout the poem. First, ‘l(a’ contains both the number 1 and the
singular indefinite article, ‘a’; the second line contains the French
singular definite article, ‘le’; ‘ll’ on the fifth line represents two
ones; ‘one’ on the 7th line spells the number out; the 8th line, ‘l’,
isolates the number; and ‘iness’, the last line, can mean “the state
of being I” – that is, individuality – or “oneness”, deriving the
“one” from the lowercase roman numeral ‘i’ (200). Cummings could have
simplified this poem drastically (“a leaf falls:/loneliness”), and
still conveyed the same verbal message, but he has altered the normal
syntax in order that each line should show a ‘one’ and highlight the
theme 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 a
falling leaf gliding, back and forth, down to the ground. The
beginning ‘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 the
ground, represented by ‘iness’. Cummings has written this poem so
perfectly that every part of it conveys the message of oneness and
individuality (200).


In mortals), Cummings vitalizes a trapeze act on paper. Oddly
enough, 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 that
Cummings is trying to emphasize the concept of self-importance (Tri
36). This poem is an amusing one, as it shows the effects of a trapeze
act within the arrangement of the words. On line 10, the space in the
word ‘open ing’ indicates the act beginning, and the empty, static
moment before it has fully begun. ‘of speeds of’ and ‘;meet;’, lines 8
and 12 respectively, show a sort of back-and-forth motion, much like
that of the motion of a trapeze swinging. Lines 12 through 15 show the
final jump off the trapeze, and ‘a/n/d’ on lines 17 through 19,
represent the deserted trapeze, after the acrobats have dismounted.
Finally, ‘(im’ on the last line should bring the reader’s eyes back to
the top of the poem, where he finds ‘mortals)’. Placing ‘(im’ at the
end of the poem shows that the performers attain a special type of
immortality for risking their lives to create a show of beauty, they
attain a special type of immortality (36-7). The circularity of the
poem causes a feeling of wholeness or completeness, and may represent
the Circle of Life, eternal motion (Fri 26).

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Cummings first tightly written ideogram was !blac, a very
interesting poem. It starts with ‘!’, which seems to be saying that
something deserving that exclamation point occurred anterior to the
poem, and the poem is trying objectively to describe certain feelings
resulting from ‘!’. “black against white” is an example of such a
description in the poem; the clashing colors create a feeling in sync
with ‘!’. Also, why “(whi)” suggests amusement and wonder, another
feeling resulting from ‘!’ (Weg 145). Cummings had written a letter
concerning !blac to Robert Wenger, author of The Poetry and Prose of
E. E. Cummings (see Works Cited). In it, he wrote, “for me, this poem
means just what it says . . . and the ! which begins the poem is what
might be called and emphatic (=very).” This poem is also concerns the
cycle of birth, life, death, and renewal. This is derived from the ‘.’
preceding the last letter. This shows that even though the poem is
finished, the circle of life is not, and is ever cycling (Weg 144).
Through the poem’s shape, !blac also shows a leaf fluttering to the
ground. The lines’ spacing synchronizes the speed of the reading with
that of the leaf at different points in its fall. With its capital
‘I’s, ‘IrlI’ also indicates a leaf falling straight down before it
hits the ground (147). Reading this poem, one may realize the lone
comma on line 12. The poet writes about the sky and a tree, and then a
comma intrudes, which makes the reader pause, and realize the new
awareness that the comma indicated – that of a falling leaf (145).
Lines 1 through 6 are also very important to the poem. Although “black
against white” may be referring to the color of the falling leaf in
contrast to the bright sky, it is not wrong to assume it means more.
As stated above, the poem’s theme is the cycle of life, and “black
against white” could be indicating life death versus life. It shows
that even though a leaf falling may be an indication of death, falling
of leaves is an integral part of the whole life cycle of the tree
(146). !blac may seem like a simple mess of words, but in reality is
much more complex than that.


swi( is another poem of Cummings’ ideogram form. The essence of
this poem is seeing a bird’s swift flight past the sun, and the wonder
of this experience. The poem mainly tries to convince the reader of
the difference between conception, what one sees, and perception, what
one knows he is seeing (Mar 105). The first line, ‘swi(‘ shows that
the object the poet sees is moving so rapdly that before he completely
utters his first word, he must describe the object, and that it is
passing before another object – the sun. His use of only primary
descriptives, such as speed, direction, color, and shape indicates
that he is trying to describe the bird as quickly as possible. The way
he speaks, in terse syllables that lack syntactical relationship to
each other, imitate one who tries to speak before he knows exactly
what he wants to say; it is another indication of how quickly the
object is moving (106). “a-motion-upo-nmotio-n/Less?”, the 6th line,
is signifying that although the poet knows that both the objects are
moving, one’s motion causes the other to seem still (106). The ‘d,’ at
the end of the poem is showing that after the poet has finally named
the object he saw, he immediately loses interest and stops, as writing
more to further organize his thoughts would be superfluous (106). The
contrasting words in this poem are very important. ‘against’ contrasts
with ‘across’, and signifies a halt. It seems that the poet wants to
stop the object in order to describe it. But a stopping of motion
would contradict ‘swi/ftly’, so Cummings decided to refer to the speed
average of the two, ‘Swi/mming’ (106). swi( contains less symbolism
than the other poems being analyzed, but it is similar in that the
syntax adds greatly to the poem.


Cummings’ peculiar method of using syntax to convey hidden
meaning is extremely effective. The reader does not simply read and
forget Cummings’ ideas; instead, he must figure out the hidden meaning
himself. In doing this, he feels contentment, and thus retains the
poem’s idea for a more extended period of time. Cummings’ ideogram
poems are puzzles waiting to be solved.



Works Cited
Friedman, Norman. E. E. Cummings: A Collection of Critical
Essays. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1972.


Kidder, Rushworth M. E. E. Cummings: An Introduction to the
Poetry. New York: Columbia University
Press, 1979.


Marks, Barry A. E. E. Cummings. New York: Twayne Publishers,
Inc., 1964.


Triem, Eve. E. E. Cummings. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press, 1969.


Wegner, Robert E. The Poetry and Prose of E. E. Cummings. New
York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1965.

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Categories: Poems

EDWARD writers and painters, and forms lasting friendships

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EDWARD ESTLIN CUMMINGS (“Estlin”) is born October 14 in family residence 104 Irving Street, Cambridge, Mass., the son of EDWARD and REBECCA CLARKE CUMMINGS. His energetic, versatile, and highly articulate father teaches sociology and political science at Harvard in the 1890’s and in 1900 is ordained minister of the South Congregational Church, Unitarian, in Boston. The Irving Street household will include at various times Grandmother Cummings, MISS JANE CUMMINGS (“Aunt Jane”), EEC’s maternal uncle, GEORGE CLARKE, and younger sister ELIZABETH (“Elos”), who eventually marries Carlton Qualey. EEC attends Cambridge public schools, vacations in Maine and at the family summer home, Joy Farm, in Silver Lake, N.H. “Ever since I can remember I’ve written; ; painted or made drawings.”
1911 Enters Harvard College, specializing in Greek and other languages He contributes poems to Harvard periodicals, is exposed to the work of EZRA POUND and other modernist writers and painters, and forms lasting friendships with JOHN DOS PASSOS (“Dos”), R. STEWART MITCHELL (“The Great Awk”), EDWARD NAGLE (stepson of the sculptor Gaston Lachaise), SCOFIELD THAYER (“Sco”), JAMES SIBLEY WATSON (“Sib”), S. FOSTER DAMON, GILBERT SELDES, M. R. WERNER (“Morrie”), JOSEPH FERDINAND GOULD (“Joe”), ROBERT HILLYER.
1915 Graduates magna cum laude; delivers commencement address on “The New Art.”
1916 Receives MA from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
1917 In New York. Lives at 21 East 15th Street with the painter ARTHUR WILSON (“Tex”). Works for P. F. Collier & Son. In April joins Norton-Haries Ambulance Corps. Sails for France on La Touraine, meeting on board another Harjes-Norton recruit, WILLIAM SLATER BROWN, who will remain his lifelong friend. After several weeks in Paris EEC and Brown are assigned to ambulance duty on Noyon sector. Brown’s letters home arouse suspicions of French army censor. On September 21, he is arrested together with Cummings, who refuses to dissociate himself from his friend. Both are sent to the concentration camp at La Ferte Mace, where they submit to further interrogation. Following strenuous efforts on his father’s part, EEC is released December 19. Eight Harvard Poets published, with EEC among contributors.
1918 Arrives in New York from France January 1. Moves with W. Slater Brown to 11 Christopher Street. Drafted during summer; stationed at Camp Devens until his discharge following Armistice. Moves with Brown to 9 West 14th Street, New York. Meets Elaine Orr, whom he will later marry and who is the mother of his only child, Nancy (“Mopsy”), now Mrs. Kevin Andrews. The marriage will end in divorce.
1920 In New York. Works seriously at his painting. Friendship with GASTON LACHAISE. First number of the new Dial, owned by Scofield Thayer and J. Sibley Watson, with R. Stewart Mitchell as managing editor, comes out in January. Other friends connected with The Dial at various times and in various capacities: PAUL ROSENFELD, music critic; HENRY McBRIDE, art critic; GILBERT SELDES, MARIANNE MOORE, KENNETH BURKE, EDMUND WILSON. On his father’s urging, EEC begins, in September, to write The Enormous Room, an account of his and Brown’s experiences in the La Ferte Mace prison.
1921 Travels to Portugal and Spain with Dos Passos, then to Paris, which remains his European headquarters for the next two years. Friends made during these years include EZRA POUND, HART CRANE, JOHN PEALE BISHOP, LEWIS GALANTIERE, GORHAM B. MUNSON, MALCOLM COWLE, ARCHIBALD MacLEISH.
1922 In Rapallo and Rome during early summer; meets parents in Venice in late summer. The Enormous Room published in mutilalated version by Boni and Liveright, New York.
1923 Summer at Guethary, France. Back in New York in autumn, moves to 4 Patchin Place, which remains his New York address until his death. Tulips and Chimneys published.
1924 In Paris on first of several short trips he makes to Europe during the later twenties.
1925 Wins Dial Award- Begins to write and draw for Vanity Fair. & and XLI Poems published.
1926 His father killed in an accident. is 5 published.
1927 Marries Anne Barton; this marriage also ends in divorce. Him published.
1928 Him produced in New York by Provincetown Players, April 18, James Light, director.
1930 No Title published.
1931 Trip to Russia. CIOPW, a book of pictures in Charcoal, Ink, Oil, Pastel, and Watercolors published. Viva

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