Poetry Wednesday – e. e. cummings


They say you always remember your first love and all that comes with it: the passion and the romance and the newness of it all.  Well, as for poetry, that has to be true as well.  My first poet-love was e. e. cummings.  I bought a yellow collection of his poetry, now a worn and abused and earmarked copy, and instantly fell in love with his muddled, confusing verse.  I was enamored with his grasshopper poem and, though I might not have admitted it then, I really had no idea what he was talking about most of the time.  But he said it beautifully and used punctuation ingeniously and, seriously, I was in love.  I even wrote my own version of an e. e. cummings-style poem when I was in high school, probably ninth or tenth grade.  I’m a little embarrassed to share it with you, but in the interest of being completely honest here, I think I will:

Um.  Seriously.  I have no idea what I’m talking about in most of this poem.  I can tell you that lufecargsid is disgraceful backwards, which I thought was immensely cool.  I don’t know why some things are underlined and some things are italicized in disastrous.  I don’t know why the fire engines are yellow.  I seem to be referencing WWII, but I’m not sure why.  I hope you get a good laugh out of this one.  I was trying so hard!  I wrote a lot of poems about snow, which is kind of silly when you think about the fact that I grew up at the beach where it snowed maybe once or twice a year, and barely enough to cover anything.

In any case, I still love e. e. cummings, but mostly when he’s being a little bit more clear.  There is always mystery in a cummings poem, but when it’s not impossible to decipher, when there is just enough for you to guess at it his meaning, that’s when it is truly masterful.

i have found what you are like

i have found what you are like
the rain

(Who feathers frightened fields
with the superior dust-of-sleep.  wields

easily the pale club of the wind
and swirled justly souls of slower strike

the air in utterable coolness

deeds of green thrilling light
with thinned
newfragile yellows

lurch and.press
–in the woods
which
stutter
and
sing
And the coolness of your smile is
stirringofbirds between my arms;but
i should rather than anything
have(almost when hugeness will shut
quietly)almost,
your kiss

____________________________________________________________

Some of my favorite lines in this are the word “newfragile”, because it really makes a lot of sense.  Something can be new, and something can be fragile, but being newfragile creates something else that neither word can describe on its own.  There is the implication of the birth of something.  This poem begs to be read aloud, especially with lines like “lurch and.press”, somehow that period tells you how to read that line.  I also love the line, “And the coolness of your smile is/stirringofbirds between my arms;but”.  That’s another beautiful neologism.  Stirringofbirds as a noun – but what could it mean?  What do you think?  What is your favorite line of this poem?

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5 thoughts on “Poetry Wednesday – e. e. cummings

  1. I admit to being completely confused by a lot of poetry. I am attempting ti decipher some of Shakespeare’s sonnets and thought they are short I have had to read them a lot to get them to give up there information.

  2. Haha, you’re so brave to share high school poetry! I’m not sure I have your guts. 🙂 My first poet-love was Yeats, and we’ve now settled into a companionable middle age together. I haven’t read much cummings, but I’ve liked what I’ve read quite well.

    1. Emily: Yeats is another favorite of mine, in fact I think I will feature him this week! I almost didn’t post this one, but I decided to be brave. 😉

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