Active in the twentieth century, Edward Estlin Cummings was an American poet who remains one of the most famous figures in English poetry. His poems on love and nature, and his erotic poetry are perhaps his most popular works, especially among youngsters. The poetry of Cummings is radical for its unconventional punctuation and phrasing. Also, satire is pervasive in his poems. Most of Cummings’ verse is in lowercase and he capitalizes words only when it is relevant to the work. The structure and use of compound words is also of significance to the verse and not arbitrary. Know about the poetry of E.E. Cummings by studying his 10 most famous poems including i carry your heart, l(a, in Just-, Buffalo Bill’s and may i feel said he.
#10 Since Feeling is First
Nature and love were Cummings’ favored themes. His poems which touch these themes are among the most popular works in the genres, especially among youngsters. In this poem, the speaker is trying to explain to his lover the nature of love, which he believes is more closely connected to feeling and passion than to wisdom and knowledge.
since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world
my blood approves
and kisses are a better fate
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says
we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph
and death i think is no parenthesis
#9 next to of course god america I
This is a satirical poem on patriotism. It is in the form of a broken sonnet. Instead of having an octave and a sestet like traditional sonnets, it contains of thirteen lines in quotes recited by a speaker, presumably a politician, and then a single line in which he stops and drinks water. The speaker sings praise of his country and stresses on the importance of patriotism. The last line of the poem suggests that the speaker is nervous; perhaps because he knows what he had been reciting is a ploy to misguide the listeners.
“next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims’ and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn’s early my
country ’tis of centuries come and go
and are no more. what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?”
He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water
The poems of Cummings are most known for their unusual form and presentation. This atypical poem contains the words ‘a leaf falls’ inserted between the word loneliness and can be read as l(a leaf falls)oneliness. The isolated letter l can be taken as numerical one and the poet writes the one within loneliness in a separate line. The falling leaf is also common symbol for loneliness. Cummings biographer Richard S. Kennedy calls the poem “the most delicately beautiful literary construct that Cummings ever created”.
#7 i sing of Olaf glad and big
Considered by some as the greatest poem written by Cummings, i sing of Olaf glad and big lauds the bravery of its protagonist named Olaf who is a conscientious objector and will not go to war. He is cruelly tortured for his refusal and even sent to prison but remains firm in his stand. Cummings challenges conventional notions of courage through this poem and gives his take on what bravery actually is.
unless statistics lie he was
more brave than me:more blond than you.
#6 may i feel said he
E.E. Cummings wrote a lot of erotic poetry especially during the time he was having an affair with the wife of one of his friends from Harvard. This poem with its humor, sexual tension and playful words is perhaps the most famous among Cummings’ erotic poems. The audacious work can be viewed as a sensuous tribute to the mating rituals between men and women.
may i feel said he
(i’ll squeal said she
just once said he)
it’s fun said she
#5 somewhere i have never travelled gladly beyond
Cummings is renowned for his love poetry and this one is considered among his best love poems. It describes the profound feelings the narrator is able to experience due to his beloved, like a delightful journey to the unknown. The last lines of the poem were famously used in the Academy Award winning Woody Allen film, Hannah and Her Sisters.
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands
#4 anyone lived in a pretty how town
Considered among Cummings’ most philosophically rich and esoteric poems, this work tells the story of the character ‘anyone’ and other residents of a nameless town. It describes how the residents of this place care little; except the young ones. But once they grow they too become part of the cycle. Seasons come and go but life of people in the town keeps following the same pattern. anyone lived in a pretty how town was adapted into a short film of the same name by George Lucas.
Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain
#3 Buffalo Bill’s
William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody was one of the most popular and colorful figures of the American Old West who performed on shows with cowboy themes. The beauty of Cummings poem on Cody is that it may be read as describing him as handsome, accomplished and full of life; but the reader can also consider it as a satirical poem on traditional heroism. Buffalo Bill’s also lays stress on the certainty that no matter who you may be, a day will come when you will be defunct.
who used to
ride a watersmooth-silver
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
he was a handsome man
and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
#2 in Just-
Cummings’ most renowned poem on nature, in Just-, can be simply interpreted as a child’s narrative at the arrival of spring. The nursery rhyme structure of the poem and compound words indicating child’s language are some of the factors that clearly suggest that the poem is narrated by a child. But, over the years, readers have found much more in the poem like various symbolic entities that the balloonMan may represent.
#1 i carry your heart with me
E.E. Cummings is considered one of the best love poets of all time and this poem is his most famous work in the genre. The poem can be compared with a sonnet due to its similar structure but Cummings does add modern twists to it. It begins with the speaker describing the ubiquitous influence of his love in his life and goes on to touch several themes including oneness, and love as the originator of life. Its popularity can be gauged from the fact that its opening line remains to be often tattooed by people and its lines have been used in several works, including in the song Ion Square by English indie rock band Bloc Party.
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)