I've been thinking a lot about poetry lately--have you noticed? Today is the birthday of E.E. Cummings, a poet whose best known for his use of lower case--but he is so much more. Indulge me again...
Perhaps it's the in-your-face flouting of authority that makes falling in love with his poetry a rite of passage for college students (at least for English majors). E.E. Cummings often eschews convention--grammar, traditional poetical structure of meter and rhyme, topic--all are up for grabs. His poetry always feels fresh and earnest, immediate, as if he just scribbled it down on the nearest piece of paper in a fit of inspiration. As a college student, I loved how he claimed his right to write how he wanted, about things as taboo! as sex and death. I wanted to claim that, myself. He made it look easy.
Of course, what I didn't know then was that Cummings had an education rich in classical studies, and in Latin and Greek. It was his understanding of these heavily-structured forms allowed him the freedom to use them as a foundation; indeed, many of his poems are actually sonnets and his internal rhyme schemes are amazing. His quirky syntax only works because he knew how syntax functions to create meaning.
One thing I love in particular about so many of his poems is the parenthetical phrasing, the series of asides and further definitions. I am, by nature, a parenthetical speaker/writer. I love how way leads to way, and I think explanations and definitions aren't necessary, but beautiful. Think of the lovely neatness of nested matryoshka dolls, or the tiny interlocking gears of a wristwatch whose face is elegantly plain. These internal intricacies move me. As do the hidden workings of a Cummings poem. Here's one now, number 44, from 73 poems....
Now i lay(with everywhere around)
me(the great dim deep sound
of rain;and of always and of nowhere)and
what a gently welcoming darkestness--
now i lay me down(in a most steep
more than music)feeling that sunlight is
(life and day are)only loaned:whereas
night is given(night and death and the rain
are given;and given is how beautifully snow)
now i lay me down to dream of(nothing
i or any somebody or you
can begin to begin to imagine)
something which nobody may keep.
now i lay me down to dream of Spring
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