November 22, 2009

"and my love slowly answered I think so."

Just now I felt my heart caught in my throat when I opened up a little book called "Fairy Tales" by e. e. cummings. Not because of the words that I read, but because of his punctuation. No commas after semi-colons or commas, was the first thing I think I noticed in the random page. Somehow it struck me, the intentional misuse of punctuation.

I've seen this before in e. e. cummings. This past week I started reading a book of his poetry. All the knowledge I had about him before I began was some conception in my mind that he never capitalized. Well, that's not true. He uses capitalization and punctuation and spacing oh so intentionally. Sometimes the i's are capitalized, sometimes not. And when they are not, they look so humble and unpretentious, so earthy and honest.

I think my favorite poem of his so far begins "All in green went my love riding/ on a great horse of gold/ into the silver dawn." The rhythm and the echoes in that poem are wonderful.

The poem that really made me think begins "suppose / Life is an old man carrying flowers on his head." They don't have titles, if you haven't noticed. The metaphors in this poem are fascinating. He refers to himself as "i" and Life and Death with capital letters, and when his love speaks, she capitalizes her I. The end is the best part, though it only makes sense in the context of the whole poem.

Read them, do. Or at least the first one, which as I said is my favorite. And for anyone who is wondering, the title is a quote from the second.

I gotta say I love e. e. cummings's writing. So, so, much. I don't care that he breaks rules. (and maybe I love him for it, because it's so tastefully done)


Michael said...

I think that I liked the second one best. Life has flowers to sell, Death as money to spend, and Afterwards is waiting beside Death.

I'm not sure I appreciate the first one as I should, maybe I just don't get it. The first stanza of "all in green . . ." I really like, but only for its imagery.

Hayley said...

I love e. e. cummings. Just not as much as I love William Carlos Williams.

My writing teacher used to always tell us that the reason we had to learn all the rules of grammar was so that we could understand how to break them appropriately. And that's kind of the genius of cummings. [Also, that he can get one to agonize over the presence of a comma or not.]