Edward Estlin Cummings was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on October 14, 1894. He earned a BA from Harvard and volunteered to go to France during World War I with the Ambulance Corps. After the war, he stayed in Paris, writing and painting, and later returned to the US. He died in Conway, New Hampshire, in 1962. Cummings is one of the most innovative contemporary poets, he used unconventional punctuation and capitalization, and unusual line, word, and even letter placements - namely, ideograms. Cummings' most difficult form of poetry 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 "la," "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 'la" as a poem of sadness and loneliness, Cummings probably did not intend that. This poem is about individuality - oneness. The theme of oneness can be derived from the numerous instances and forms of the number '1' throughout the poem. First, "la" 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'.
Cummings could have simplified this poem dras...
... middle of paper ...
...ould contradict 'swi/ftly', so Cummings decided to refer to the speed average of the two, 'Swi/mming.' "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.
*This paper is not allowed to be copied yet ideas can be taken from this paper. Plagerism is a crime!
Wegner, Robert E. The Poetry and Prose of E. E. Cummings. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1965.
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