e. e. cummings por Karina Lamas Evangelista. Desactivaré los comentarios el viernes 3 de mayo a las 10 am.
As Karina mentions in her presentation, e.e. cummings, almost without a doubt, stands as an atypical modernist. However, as it is evident in the two poems that Karina shares with us, there does not seem to be a complete detachment either from tradition or the modernist movement itself. For instance, we find a heavy reliance in images and simple vocabulary. In addition, we also find a direct connection to a former tradition through intertextuality; that is, a reference to William Blake’s work (both a thematic and a formal one). It is precisely this aspect which I would like to comment on.
Similarly to Blake, cummings uses an unconventional syntax, punctuation, and spelling in order to convey meaning. Furthermore, another interesting parallel between these authors is their conception of poetry. It seems that for both poets poetry is undividable not only from sound, but also from image. In other words, both Blake and cummings consider poetry as a musical and visual experience. Thus, words find their counterpart in images or together form a whole: in Blake’s case this is achieved by mingling speech and images through an engraving; in cummings’ case, it is achieved by the correspondence between form and sense: “The “disarranged” lines that form this poem can be considered a visual stanza forming and arrow or a bullet […].The bullet and the arrow can also be operating as ideograms that emphasize the typical cowboy features of Buffalo Bill. In this portrait the poetic voice is commemorating Buffalo Bill’s figure in a childish nostalgic tone” (Lamas 6).
As a conclusion, in my opinion, in contrast with some of the critics that Karina quotes, cummings is not at an outsider at all. Likewise, I would not consider his singular use of syntax just a verbal experiment, but a means to portray his unique vision of the world and poetry, since, paradoxically, just as when we read e.e. cummings we can trace a literary past, in the same way, when we read him, we read him alone.
As Karina explained in Fernández Álvarez’s words, the physicality of cummings’ poems is the main means of expression, and this can be seen in “Buffallo Bill’s.” In the poem, the physical arrangement is significant to foreground the importance of some of the nouns that are mentioned in the poem, and also to signal some parallelisms between a couple of these nouns. The nouns that are being capitalized are the alliterative Buffalo Bill, Jesus, and Mister Death, while the stallion and the poetic i are left in lower case letters. I believe that this is done in order to grant greater importance to the three first nouns, as they may be standing for three levels of existence, and each of the nouns may be a representative of each of these: Buffalo Bill belongs to an earthly existence, and according to the attributes that the poetic voice gives him, he is an individual who excels on this plain of existence; afterwards, there is Jesus that may belong to a more mystical, divine plain of existence, and as it is placed in the right part of the page at a considerable distance from the other elements his relationship seems to be solely present, as there is no actual involvement with the other planes; finally Mister Death is at the bottom of the page, and there is an interaction both with Buffalo Bill and with the poetic voice. Mister Death may be the representation of the underworld, and its placing in the page may be suggesting this connotation. Furthermore, there seems to be a parallel between Buffalo Bill, which is described in the first lines by what he used to stand in close relationship, he used to ride “a watersmooth-silver/stallion,” and Mister Death. Both of these elements frame the poem and are presented as compound nouns, which, together with the presence of blue in both cases and that they are both at the extremes of the poem (at the periphery, perhaps emphasizing this characteristic in both personae), suggests a connection. These elements are being emphasized by the use of capital letters, and their importance in the poem may be a suggestion on the representation of these levels of existence, and the interaction (or lack of it) they have with each other. Following this idea, it could be said that there is an emphasis on the pervasive presence of death in earthly existence, while the divinity stands apart, far from human, earthly, reach.
In the poem “in Just-” the use of adjectives creates a contrast between nature and the individual in order to establish the preponderance of nature’s renovation upon the decaying of the self. This is to say, whilst “spring” and “world” are represented by pleasant adjectives “luscious” and “wonderful,” the “balloonman” is portrayed by disagreeable adjectives, such as “little lame” and “queer old.” On the one hand, the delightful adjectives “luscious” and “wonderful” are bound through a hyphen to the nouns “mud” and “puddle,” respectively. These unions of words may establish an inherent relation between nature and their enjoyable characteristics within the poem. Moreover, the emphasis on nature is established by an atypical grammatical structure, in which there is first a noun of nature regarding the season of spring, and then it is an adjective: “mud-/luscious” and “puddle-wonderful.” On the other hand, the unpleasant adjectives present a transformation of the balloonman throughout the poem. Firstly, the balloonman is “little lame,” afterwards he is “queer old,” and finally he is portrayed as “goat-footed,” which, according to Karina, “[t]hese adjectives make him an ominous and defective presence.” In this manner, these adjectives aforementioned suggest a process of decaying from “little lame,” which may imply innocence; later on, “queer old” may manifest a sort of corruption; and finally, “goat-footed” may insinuate a damned and decrepit individual. Furthermore, if we also consider the physical position of the line as a manner of expression, as Karina has pointed out, the preponderance of nature upon the decayed individual is emphasized according to its references in the poem. This is to say, the first mention about nature occurs in the second line: “spring when the world is mud-.” The visible isolation of the word “spring” suggests its own connotative independence, even though there is a subordinate clause that introduces an intrinsic characteristic of spring. In the same manner, in lines 9 and 10 there is another visible isolation of “spring.”
when the world is puddle-wonderful
Once more there is established the independence of “spring” and the insistence of its features by means of a subordinate clause. Finally, the last mention of “spring” in the poem appears in one single line without subordinate clauses, however, the constant repetition of “it’s spring” denotes the ceaseless presence of nature and its preponderance:
In order to conclude, throughout the poem the importance of nature upon the self is continuous. This is to say, there is a constant remembrance by means of the use of adjectives, repetitions and isolations of “spring” that imply nature’s wonders, which gives a cycling renovation every new season, in this case, in spring. Moreover, the transformation of the individual is portrayed through the decaying of the adjectives that convert the balloonman into a decrepit and dying self.
The structure of the fits poem, “in Just-”, breaks with the flow of its narrative, so that the reader is obliged to pay special attention to the images than on the narrative itself. In this manner, the depiction of the balloonman becomes more visual, even though a description of him is barely made. As Karina showed, he, who has been labeled under the adjectives of lame, queer and old, becomes more impressive only in the final lines, which are actually the more irregular ones.
It is evident that the use of rhetorical devices is minimal, for it is the grammar itself the one that convey meaning. That is, the rhetoric of the poem lies in the use of written language itself. His poems, as Karina noted, represents a challenge to conventional poetry and the reader is forced to be aware of the limits of language. More than giving us a different perspective of a transcendental truth, what e. e. cummings manages is to analyze our own way of interpretation.
As Karina and Etzel have already mentioned Cummings utilizes grammar to create different effects and meanings on his poetry. In the second poem we can see that Cummings is playing with the grammatical rules, he starts the poem with “Buffallo Bill’s/defunct” where the enjambment of the two lines are read as the passing of Buffallo Bill, if we take the word ‘defunct’ as an adjective. Though thanks to the grammatical choices, if ‘defunct’ is seen as a noun then the poem would be about the dead person that is owned by Buffallo Bill, while it is a farfetched idea still one can keep reading and it holds up. So there are two readings: the crazy one where Buffallo Bill has a dead guy who used to ride a stallion and was named Jesus, and the more reasonable one where it describes the Character of Buffallo Bill and Jesus is just an interjection, as Karina mentioned. The poem’s rhythm is very fast, which is due to both the alliteration in the poem and the lack of spaces between the words. For example in this next line: “and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat” the rapidness serves both to give the effect of someone speaking fast and to give the image of Buffallo Bill firing his revolver repeatedly and accurately.
I believe that not only does e.e. cummings manages to explore and put to the test our conventional notion of poetry by his provocative way of writing, but much in the vein of Emerson’s “Self-Reliance,” cummings highlights the importance of the individual. The movement that cummings looks for (“ I am abnormally fond of that precision which creates movement”) happens in the individual as well as in the overall texture of the poem. As Karina pointed out, there are specific rethorical devices cummings uses so as to make this movement happen, yet what cannot be “measured” is the movement caused by the surprise, the shock, the liking or disliking of his poetry; it is in man’s individuality where the success of his precision resides. It is as though cummings wished to praise the natural and different reactions every reader may have toward his poetry. “I read the other day some verses written by an eminent painter which were original and not conventional. The soul always hears an admonition in such lines, let the subject be what it may. The sentiment they instil is of more value than any thought they may contain” Emerson wrote in “Self-Reliance;” not only was cummings confident in his opinion on poetry, but by following Emerson’s opinion on following one’s sentiment, he managed to create poetry which has outlived him, “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius.” Cumming’s praise for individuality allows him to counterweight mass thought, group conformity and commercialism (the “enemies” of individuality).