homage to e.e.cummings and parts of speech
Legions of prepositions
Waves of from radiate
At spat in the face of om
Sacred in and out
I look to you
The wonder of if
To go beyond
Taste watermelon mouth
Swallow purred pearls
Smell your shadows
Within and for
Verses of versus
I feel the need to explain this poem, even to myself, so that I don’t forget what I think it means. First off, I wrote it in response to an assignment to write in a style imitative of e.e. cummings. As he is a master and I am a novice, this proved to be challenging. I read up on him – he has a fascinating biography- and his style, but I tried not to read too many of his poems, because they are intimidating. The fresh, surprising use of language and the almost aching beauty of some of his images make me want to quit before I start.
This website http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/e-e-cummings was of great help to me. Some of the people who wrote about cummings’ works and style are themselves poets, so even their commentary was lovely.Their analysis also served to make me even more intimidated to imitate him. Here are some of the things they said about his style:
- A Cummings poem is spare and precise, employing a few key words eccentrically placed on the page. Some of these words were invented by Cummings, often by combining two common words into a new synthesis. He also revised grammatical and linguistic rules to suit his own purposes, using such words as “if,” “am,” and “because” as nouns, for example, or assigning his own private meanings to words.
- Mark Van Doren defined Cummings as a poet with “a richly sensuous mind; his verse is distinguished by fluidity and weight; he is equipped to range lustily and long among the major passions.”
- M. L. Rosenthal wrote in The Modern Poets: A Critical Introduction: “The chief effect of Cummings’ jugglery with syntax, grammar, and diction was to blow open otherwise trite and bathetic motifs through a dynamic rediscovery of the energies sealed up in conventional usage…”
- “Cummings,” Richard P. Blackmur wrote in The Double Agent: Essays in Craft and Elucidation, “has a fine talent for using familiar, even almost dead words, in such a context as to make them suddenly impervious to every ordinary sense; they become unable to speak, but with a great air of being bursting with something very important and precise to say.”
- Bethany K. Dumas wrote in her E. E. Cummings: A Remembrance of Miracles that “more important than the specific devices used by Cummings is the use to which he puts the devices. That is a complex matter; irregular spacing … allows both amplification and retardation. Further, spacing of key words allows puns which would otherwise be impossible. Some devices, such as the use of lowercase letters at the beginnings of lines … allow a kind of distortion that often re-enforces that of the syntax…. All these devices have the effect of jarring the reader, of forcing him to examine experience with fresh eyes.”
- Penberthy detected in Cummings a “nineteenth-century romantic reverence for natural order over man-made order, for intuition and imagination over routine-grounded perception. His exalted vision of life and love is served well by his linguistic agility. He was an unabashed lyricist, a modern cavalier love poet. But alongside his lyrical celebrations of nature, love, and the imagination are his satirical denouncements of tawdry, defiling, flat-footed, urban and political life—open terrain for invective and verbal inventiveness.”
So, yeah. That’s mostly what people say about how I write, too. I now reside in a great, hulking mansion of insecurity – Daunted Abbey. Still and all, I’ve got to turn in something, and it has to at least take in some of the elements of his work into account. I fear my poem is inscrutable to a reader, but it does mean something to me. Cummings says not to worry so much about meaning or understanding, and that poetry is about process, not product, but that’s kind of ridic, right? Human being always try to make sense of things, to create a narrative that works for them so that they can deal with, and perhaps attempt to control life’s plot.
After you decide what my poem means or doesn’t mean to you, here is my explanation of it.
Legions of prepositions
Waves of from radiate – You know how when things – ideas, feelings, vibes, invective- come from someone or something to you, or from you to someone or something else, it’s like waves radiating outwards? That’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout!
Without invades – Stuff from the outside always works its way in to you, your mind, your body, your thoughts, your self-image
At spat in the face of om – These things that come at you spit in the face of your balance, your center, and knock you off your feet; and behold, a visual pun! The phrase “spat in the face of” splits the word “atom”, and what happens when you split the atom? I don’t know, because that’s science, but I think it leads to immense friction, chaos, and radical, unpredictable patterns. Whatever it is, it can’t be good.
Sacred in and out – According to me, the “om” is the sacred in and out, the breath, the circle, blah, blah, blah
I look to you – And when the om is shattered, the speaker looks to whoever ‘you’ is
The wonder of if – Because you offer possibility, opportunity, and…
Perchance – …the great maybe
To go beyond – The chance to go beyond oneself, beyond alone, beyond the day to day flood of things that come from the outside that trouble and disconcert
Taste watermelon mouth – The chance to connect in a delicious way
Swallow purred pearls – To hear and believe and internalize the lovely things said and heard when one is intimate and focused on another
Smell your shadows – Really, do I have to explain everything? Cummings wrote about doing it a lot. I guess you could say he wrote about his numerous and varied cummings…but probably you wouldn’t say that. I might!
Within and for – To be within another’s embrace and within your own head; doing for someone else
Amid- Kind of a sexy word, don’t you think? Glide-y!
Beneath – Also sexy, but with a bit of an edge
Inside – Ah, sweet mystery of life at last I found you! (This only works if you sing it in Madeline Kahn’s voice from Young Frankenstein)
Until – Uh-oh!
Verses of versus – After time, they go against each other
And through – And then, they are through the stage of each other, or instead of thriving in a mutual space they have broken through boundaries of each other and are now through – finito.
So… is that what you got from the poem? Does it make sense? Is it homage-y? Should I turn it in? This is time sensitive, so let me know!