Poetry of E. E. Cummings

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Life's Not A Paragraph

Throughout his poetry, E. E. Cummings seduces readers deep into a thicket of scrambled words, missing punctuation, and unconventional structure. Within Cummings's poetic bramble, ambiguity leads the reader through what seems at first a confusing and winding maze. However, this confusion actually transforms into a path that leads the reader to the center of the thicket where Cummings's message lies: one should never allow one's experience to be limited by reason and rationality. In order to communicate his belief that emotional experience should triumph over reason, Cummings employs odd juxtapositions, outlandish metaphors, and inversions of traditional grammatical structures that reveal the "illogic" of reason. By breaking down the formal boundaries of his poetic structures, Cummings urges his readers to question boundaries of any kind. Indeed, in the same manner Cummings's literary style appears to be uncontrolled; many of his poems, such as "since feeling is first" and "as freedom is a breakfastfood," in turn suggest that emotion provides the compositional fabric for our experience of life, and therefore, emotion itself should never be defined or controlled.

In "since feeling is first," Cummings urges his reader to reject any attempts to control emotion by using English grammar as one example of the restrictive conventions present in society. By stating that "since feeling is first / who pays any attention / to the syntax of things," Cummings suggests that emotion should not be forced to fit into some preconceived framework or mold (1-3). He carries this message throughout the poem by juxtaposing images of the abstract and the concrete--images of emotion and images of English grammar. The abstract na...

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...g thicket because he believes the path of the straight and narrow limits the possibilities of experience. Through the unconventionality of his poetic structures, Cummings urges his readers to question order and tradition. He wants his readers to realize that reason and rationality are always secondary to emotion, that emotional experience is a free-flowing force that should not be constrained. Cummings's poetry suggests that in order to get at the true essence of something, one must look past the commonsensical definition, and not be limited by "the syntax of things."

Works Cited

Cummings, E. E. "as freedom is a breakfastfood." E. E. Cummings: Complete Poems 1904-1962. Ed. George J. Firmage. New York: Liveright, 1991. 511.

Cummings, E. E. "Since feeling is first." E. E. Cummings: Complete Poems 1914-1962. Ed. George J. Firmage, New York: Liveright, 1991. 291.

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