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by E. E. Cummings
Biography of E. E. Cummings
Edward Estlin Cummings was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1894. He received his B.A. in 1915 and his M.A. in 1916, both from Harvard. During the First World War, Cummings worked as an ambulance driver in France, but he was interned in a prison camp by the French authorities (an experience recounted in his novel, The Enormous Room) for his outspoken anti-war convictions. After the war, he settled into a life divided between houses in rural Connecticut and Greenwich Village, with frequent visits to Paris.
In his work, Cummings experimented radically with form, punctuation, spelling and syntax, abandoning traditional techniques and structures to create a new, highly idiosyncratic means of poetic expression. Later in his career, he was often criticized for settling into his signature style and not pressing his work towards further evolution. Nevertheless, he attained great popularity, especially among young readers, for the simplicity of his language, his playful mode and his attention to subjects such as war and sex. At the time of his death in 1962, he was the second most widely read poet in the United States, after Robert Frost.
Anyone lived in a pretty how town
by E. E. Cummings
anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did
Women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain
children guessed (but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that no one
loved him more by more
when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her
someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then) they
said their nevers they slept their dream
stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)
one day anyone died i guess
(and no one
stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was
all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.
Women and men (both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
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Author's intend or purpose
In this poem, Cummings is telling a children's story, about children and grown-ups and about growing-up, in the deceptively simple-complex language of childhood. The poem is a criticism of blindly following social conventions, as well as society's intolerance of nonconformists. Cummings shows us how society is not willing to acknowledge differences. He asks us to question traditions, and to understand them for their true intent. He is challenging anyone, meaning any one of us, to push the boundaries of our known space so that we may achieve our dreams.
E. E. Cummings's experimentation with form and language places him among the most innovative of twentieth-century poets. His style eludes specific association with any one modern line. Poets as Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore and Robert Graves applauded Cummins works. However, he remained peripheral to contemporary poetic movements. He was one of the earliest modern poets to introduce typographical eccentricities into writing. He painstakingly measured his dazzling linguistic art, controlling sound--pacing, syllable stress, juncture and sight. The intricate spatial patterning led Marianne Moore to describe his poems as "a kind of verbal topiary-work." The strong visual character of Cummings's writing owes much to his parallel development as a painter. Indeed, his dismemberment of syntax derived from the advances in contemporary European
In this poem, Cummings cumulates different kinds and levels of rhythm in order to suggest the complexity of superimposed sensuous and mental impressions. The most striking pattern is obviously the revolution of the seasons, which is indicated by the rotating list of their names. With each of the abstract terms the poet associates a natural phenomenon characterizing the particular season on the sensuous level of human experience so that one may stand emblematically for the other: sun -summer; moon -autumn; stars - winter; rain spring.
Cummings' most important structuring devices in this poem are refrains and repeated grammatical patterns. Two of the refrains are strings of four nouns, the first series referring to the seasons ("spring summer autumn winter," line 3, then those same words in a different order in lines 11 and 34); and the second series referring to more specific natural phenomena. All of these refrains are related to the sky ("sun moon stars rain" in lines 8 and 36, and a variant order of these nouns in line 21). Another refrain, "with up so floating many bells down" (line 2) is repeated exactly in line 24. Both times the phrase is in parentheses.
Literary Elements of the Whole Work
Cummings´ "anyone lived in a pretty how town" is a poem that used linguistic subterfuge to hide its sentiment and simultaneously make a unique statement. It is a narrative with a strong lyric component; that is to say, the poem is a ballad. Written in nine variably rhyming quatrain stanzas, "anyone lived in a pretty how town" does not show a normative or "running" verse foot, such as the iamb; therefore, the poem is written in podic prosody, a system of accentual verse that is sometimes called "folk meters". It is the prosody in which most nursery rhymes and folk ballads are written, which accounts for its rhythmical quality. Specifically, the lines are fourstress or "tetrapodic" in length.
The poem "Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town" by E. E. Cummings tells the story of life. It exemplifies the busy life that humans live and their inability to focus on the little things in life. Cumming's repetition and use of diction gives the poem a silly setting of a life that is abnormal but truly is reality.
By analyzing the author's diction within the title the reader can see the silly tone already set. The quote "he sang his didn't he danced his did" allows the reader to not only see the silly diction used, but also see how the author's words are mixed up along with the lives of the people in the poem. The statement "and more by more they dream their sleep" again shows how the mix up in the lives of the people in Cummings' poem. Yet, everyone bypasses this particular incident as though they do not care about their marriage; it is just something that takes place in their busy life. By the use of repetition, the reader is able to see how people's crazy lives have a natural correspondence with the weather. The repetition of "sun moon stars rain" allows the reader to see why the people in the poem go through its crazy cycle. In Cummings' poem the times and events change, but the people within the poem still feel the same about their lives.
The tone set by the quote "someones married their everyones laughed their cryings and their dance (sleep wake hope and then)" is serious. The tone Cummings uses in the poem sets a nonchalant mood, while his use of repetition allows the reader to see the importance of natural correspondence. By stating "stars rain sun moon" out of its regular used repetition, Cummings allows the reader to see that even the weather gets to busy and forgets its order, just like the people in his poem.
In the reference "children guessed (but only a few down they forget as up they grew autumn winter spring summer)" enables the reader to see how at first the children question this crazy life their parents are living, but as they begin to grow older they except this busy, nonchalant life as their own
The two major themes of "anyone lived in a pretty how town" are to be found in the first line or, rather, in the implications of the first line. On implication is, "how can anyone live in a pretty town" where nothing much goes on, where people are completely caught up in their everyday lives, where, though everyone is involved with everyone else, most people don't really know or, in fact, care what their neighbors are really like? It is rhetorical question because, in fact, most people do live in such towns -- there are anyone and no one, of no particular significance except to one another sometimes, on an individual basis. Anyone does mean something to Noone and that is the basic paradox of existence. We -- who, after all, are most people -- both care and do not care; both love and do not love; are important to one another and are not important at all.
These twin themes comprise an antithesis; they make up a paradox. One theme appears to cancel out the other, but in fact does not: both themes continue to exist and remain true. Thus, "anyone lived in a pretty how town" encompasses within its brief lyric tale two truths, not just one. These truths exist in tension with one another, each pulling and pushing against the other, but remaining in a state of impossible equilibrium, which is always the human condition, for humankind simultaneously always treats itself at once with indifference and compassion, with cruelty and kindness, with trust and suspicion, and with many other antitheses one might list, all of which will, paradoxically, be true. E. E. Cummings, in this poem, managed to invent a poetic vehicle that exemplifies and illustrates these opposites, telling a story about most people and individuals that is simultaneously a joyous and a sorrowful song.
This poem is about the life cycle of a townspeople and of one ignored couple, lyrically rendered in nine short stanzas. To stunning effect, Cummings employs reversed word order, almost-but-not-quite-nonsense sentences, play on words, and repetition. We get the coming and going of the seasons; the leading of lives, circumscribed, sometimes small-minded, monotonous.
However, there is also yearning and dreaming, marriage, children, joy and hope. It may take several readings to realize that woven into the description of the townsfolk is the tale of a man and a woman, "anyone" and "no one
", ignored or even reviled by everyone else. Only "children guessed" that they were falling in love--that "anyone's any was all to her . . . . " Time passes, they die, they are buried next to each other, they become part of the earth and of the cosmos, "all by all and deep by deep . . . Wish by spirit and if by yes."
I like this poem very much, because I agree that the individual as individual is necessarily set against society and against other people as members of society. It is in the individual's unique responses that the value of life inheres. One does much what others have always done, but with a difference, and one does it oneself, one's own way, with one's own feelings. The group always distrusted and feared these unique responses. Many sociologists tell us that the group needs communication and regularity of behavior in order to function as a group and so necessarily rejects what is most individual about the individual. However, what all comprehend is no longer alive, no longer a living idea or feeling. These are old commonplaces but I think they place "anyone" in relation to the women and men of the town.
I like the poem because it presents, on one hand, an impressionistic sketch of a town and its people, of life from birth to death; on the other, a love story in particulars. The poet's technique demands that the reader form an impression and then attend to detail. Some will find this difficult to do, but is not this what is required of English teachers when they listen to the chaotic narratives of students?