Is the of style e. e. cummings’ poetry its true genius, or the very reason the works should be called drivel? Alfred Kazin says that the poet’s style is “arrogant” and “slap stick” and that cummings is “the duality of the traditionalist and the clown”(155). Others, such as Richard P. Blackmur, say his technique is an insult to the writing profession. He says that cummings’ poetry would only appeal to those with a “childish spirit”(140). It was Mark Van Doren, though, who probably said the truth about cummings. “He has a richly sensuous mind; his verse is distinguished by fluidity and weight; he is equipped to range lustily and long among the major passions”(140) Through examples of his work, “from spiralling ecstatically this,” Buffalo Bill’s,” “next to of course god america I,” and “whippoorwill this,” it can be show that cummings is a deliberate, inventive, and precise poet who uses his own, unique style.
Style throughout cummings work is usually difficult to piece together and the works’ meanings are even harder to decipher, but they all conjure the reader to think. Cummings uses an assortment of tools for his style. In “from spiralling ecstatically this” cummings uses imaginative new words and line breaks. Cummings creates the word “unmiracle” in line five. This word implies destruction of what has just taken place, the birth of a baby. “Perhapsless” is another new word, also of pessimistic connotations. Perhaps is a hopeful word, meaning there is a chance, “perhapsless” implies that failure is inevitable and that trying is futile. The line breaks of this poem were meant to emphasize the single lines of the poem. “From spiralling ecstatically this” suggests that one is going throughout life with no sense of direction or meaning. “Perhapsless mystery of paradise” implies that the afterlife is non existent. “Whose only secret all creation sings” is that the mother’s “love provides the universal rhythm . . . despite man’s attempt to change or stop the rhythm, it marks the limits on his destructive power” (Powers 237) and who knows what lies beyond.
In “Buffalo Bill’s” cummings’ style not only includes line breaks, but run on and joined words as well. His line breaks and technique of separating words is a precise and deliberate method which causes the reader to think. Separating “defunct” by itself could also mean death (Dilworth 176). Using the word Jesus in a place by itself with a long space, indicating a pause, before and after it, indicate that it is not being used to describe Jesus Christ, but rather as an expression of amazement and awe, common in everyday speech. Cummings, throughout this poem, uses space in order to indicate pauses, much as a comma would do. In this poem he also uses run on and joined words to emphasize description of Buffalo Bill. In line four of the poem cummings wrote “watersmooth-silver” to describe the stallion in line five. The combination of the words are referring to the fluidity and grace of the mighty stallion, but suggest that it is a coward by describing its blood as water. This image does not coincide with the masculinity Buffalo Bill, himself, portrayed by not acting like a coward. Silver, used in conjunction with watersmooth, that described the stallion, Dilworth stated, could also refer to the “silver-haired Bill Cody in old age”(175). Cummings also uses the combined words “onetwothreefourfive” and “pigeonsjustlikethat.” These emphasize what made Buffalo Bill famous in the first place, his sharp-shooting as well as the diction of the speaker. “Onetwothreefourfive” is the speed of which he can draw his gun and nearly empty it destroying “pigeons-justlikethat.” “Pigeonsjustlikethat” are the clay pigeons that Cody destroyed while perfecting his shooting.
In “next to of course god america I” cummings uses popular clichs, a run on word, and a line break in the poem for his style choice. In the beginning section of the poem he uses no punctuation except for the quotation marks, an apostrophes and a question mark. This is so the lines run into each other, creating a sense of confusion. The lines in the poem are a collection of clichs that have been used throughout the years describing patriotism for this country or phrases that have been used in everyday life. Cummings discusses his feelings toward a nation’s attitude of war, through the quotation of clichs. He could not understand why this nation would send our troops off to “the roaring slaughter.” His writings suggests the question of whether this country has nothing better for its young men than to send them off to die in war. There is also a run on word present in the quotation, “deafanddumb.” This is done to show how closely related these two words are and that society, at the time, viewed them both as one and the same. It was also what the hierarchy of this nation felt regarding the average intelligence of the common man. There is a line break that separates the last line from the body of the poem. The unusual aspect of this is that cummings capitalized the “H” in “He” and used a period. The capitalized letter is startling because cummings, who is so modest that he had his name legally changed to all lower case letters, never thought any human was important enough to have capitalized letters in the pronoun form. The period was also amazing because cummings never uses them in their prescribed manner, yet he does so in this poem.
In “whippoorwill this” the style again includes run on words and this time cummings also uses inventive, original words as well as line breaks. In this poem there are two run on words, the first is “whippoorwill,” followed by “moonday.” When one thinks of the word whippoorwill, one thinks of the bird, but that is not so in this case. Don Jobe said “‘whippoorwill’ may be split into three separate words: whip, poor and will. . . . The reader may attribute ‘will’ to a man’s will, thus ‘whip’ and ‘poor’ become adjectives possibly meaning fate and weakness”(48). Jobe continues to explain that “moonday” is actually night, since that is when the moon rises and sets.
Cummings also uses inventive, self made words in this work. “Unthings” in the poem are the humans that occupy this planet (Jobe 48). Humans are nothing when compared to the vastness of this universe and the universe itself doesn’t recognize people or have any obligation towards them. “Threeing” is another new word in this poem that has an assortment of possible meanings. It has been said that “threeing” is man “living in the three dimensions of the physical universe”( 48). Humans are only allowed, for now, to understand and comprehend three dimensions, so that when cummings wrote “threeing alive” in line seven of his poem he means that that is how humans live for now, that is their lifestyle. The line breaks in this poem allow the reader to indulge in their thoughts on this work. There is a set pattern in this poem of one line, two lines, one line for the stanzas. Each line, or group of lines, though has it own significance to the poem.
This poet has been admired for decades for his style of writing and the thoughts he provokes. Critics write about his work and are still trying to understand him still, even though he has been dead for nearly three decades. Cummings poetry style is unique because of the tools he uses. The run on and joined words, the punctuation, line breaks and original words are all part of his style. He is not an snooty, comedic, or childish write, his works are precise, inventive and deliberate. Cummings is a wonderful poet who lets the pen speak for itself.


Bibliography:
Works Cited
Blackmur, Richard P. “Notes on E. E. Cummings’ Language.” Contemporary LiteracyCriticism. Eds. Dedria Bry Fonski and Phyllis Carmel Mendelson. Vol. 12.Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1980: 140-141.
cummings, e. e. “next to of course god america I.” Complete Poems 1904-1962. Ed.George J. Firmage. New York: Liverright, 1991: 267.
cummings, e. e. “Buffalo Bill’s.” Complete Poems 1904-1962. Ed. George J. Firmage.New York: Liverright, 1991: 90.
cummings, e. e. “from spiralling ecstatically this.” Complete Poems 1904-1962. Ed.George J. Firmage. New York: Liverright, 1991: 714.
cummings, e. e. “whippoorwill this.” Complete Poems 1904-1962. Ed. George J.Firmage. New York: Liverright, 1991: 751.
Dilworth, Thomas. “Cummings’s ‘Buffalo Bill’s'” Explicator 53 Spring (1994): 175-176.
Jobe, Don. “Cummings’ Whippoorwill This.” Explicator 42 Fall (1983): 48-49.
Kazin, Alfred. “E. E. Cummings and his Fathers.” Contemporary Literacy Criticism. Eds.Dedria Bry Fonski and Phyllis Carmel Mendelson. Vol. I Detroit: Gale ResearchInc., 1978: 155.
Powers, Kate. “cummings’s From Spiralling Ecstatically This.” Explicator49 Summer(1991) : 235-237.
Van Doren, Mark. “First Glance.” Contemporary Literacy Criticism. Eds. Dedria BryFonskiand Phyllis Carmel Mendelson. Vol. XII. Detroit: Gale Research Inc.,1980: 139-140.
Bibliography
Blackmur, Richard P. “Notes on E. E. Cummings’ Language.” Contemporary LiteracyCriticism. Eds. Dedria Bry Fonski and Phyllis Carmel Mendelson. Vol. XIIDetroit: Gale Research Inc., 1980: 140-141.
cummings, e. e. Complete Poems 1904-1962. Ed. George J. Firmage. New York:Liverright, 1991.
Dilworth, Thomas. “Cummings’s ‘Buffalo Bill’s’.” Explicator 53 Spring (1994): 175-176.
Jobe, Don. “Cummings’ WHIPPOORWILL THIS.” Explicator 42 Fall (1983): 48-49.
Kazin, Alfred. “E. E. Cummings and his Fathers.” Contemporary Literacy Criticism. Eds.Dedria Bry Fonski and Phyllis Carmel Mendelson. Vol. I Detroit: Gale ResearchInc., 1978: 155.
Literature and the Writing Process. Eds. Elizabeth McMahan, Susan X Day, and RobertFunk. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice, 1996.
Powers, Kate. “cummings’s From Spiralling Ecstatically This.” Explicator 49 Summer(1991) : 235-237.
Van Doren, Mark. “First Glance.” Contemporary Literacy Criticism. Eds. Dedria BryFonski and Phyllis Carmel Mendelson. Vol. XII. Detroit: Gale Research Inc.,1980: 139-140.

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Author

EDWARD ESTLIN CUMMINGS (“Estlin”) is born October 14 in family residence 104 Irving Street, Cambridge, Mass., the son of EDWARD and REBECCA CLARKE CUMMINGS. His energetic, versatile, and highly articulate father teaches sociology and political science at Harvard in the 1890’s and in 1900 is ordained minister of the South Congregational Church, Unitarian, in Boston. The Irving Street household will include at various times Grandmother Cummings, MISS JANE CUMMINGS (“Aunt Jane”), EEC’s maternal uncle, GEORGE CLARKE, and younger sister ELIZABETH (“Elos”), who eventually marries Carlton Qualey. EEC attends Cambridge public schools, vacations in Maine and at the family summer home, Joy Farm, in Silver Lake, N.H. “Ever since I can remember I’ve written; ; painted or made drawings.”
1911 Enters Harvard College, specializing in Greek and other languages He contributes poems to Harvard periodicals, is exposed to the work of EZRA POUND and other modernist writers and painters, and forms lasting friendships with JOHN DOS PASSOS (“Dos”), R. STEWART MITCHELL (“The Great Awk”), EDWARD NAGLE (stepson of the sculptor Gaston Lachaise), SCOFIELD THAYER (“Sco”), JAMES SIBLEY WATSON (“Sib”), S. FOSTER DAMON, GILBERT SELDES, M. R. WERNER (“Morrie”), JOSEPH FERDINAND GOULD (“Joe”), ROBERT HILLYER.
1915 Graduates magna cum laude; delivers commencement address on “The New Art.”
1916 Receives MA from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
1917 In New York. Lives at 21 East 15th Street with the painter ARTHUR WILSON (“Tex”). Works for P. F. Collier & Son. In April joins Norton-Haries Ambulance Corps. Sails for France on La Touraine, meeting on board another Harjes-Norton recruit, WILLIAM SLATER BROWN, who will remain his lifelong friend. After several weeks in Paris EEC and Brown are assigned to ambulance duty on Noyon sector. Brown’s letters home arouse suspicions of French army censor. On September 21, he is arrested together with Cummings, who refuses to dissociate himself from his friend. Both are sent to the concentration camp at La Ferte Mace, where they submit to further interrogation. Following strenuous efforts on his father’s part, EEC is released December 19. Eight Harvard Poets published, with EEC among contributors.
1918 Arrives in New York from France January 1. Moves with W. Slater Brown to 11 Christopher Street. Drafted during summer; stationed at Camp Devens until his discharge following Armistice. Moves with Brown to 9 West 14th Street, New York. Meets Elaine Orr, whom he will later marry and who is the mother of his only child, Nancy (“Mopsy”), now Mrs. Kevin Andrews. The marriage will end in divorce.
1920 In New York. Works seriously at his painting. Friendship with GASTON LACHAISE. First number of the new Dial, owned by Scofield Thayer and J. Sibley Watson, with R. Stewart Mitchell as managing editor, comes out in January. Other friends connected with The Dial at various times and in various capacities: PAUL ROSENFELD, music critic; HENRY McBRIDE, art critic; GILBERT SELDES, MARIANNE MOORE, KENNETH BURKE, EDMUND WILSON. On his father’s urging, EEC begins, in September, to write The Enormous Room, an account of his and Brown’s experiences in the La Ferte Mace prison.
1921 Travels to Portugal and Spain with Dos Passos, then to Paris, which remains his European headquarters for the next two years. Friends made during these years include EZRA POUND, HART CRANE, JOHN PEALE BISHOP, LEWIS GALANTIERE, GORHAM B. MUNSON, MALCOLM COWLE, ARCHIBALD MacLEISH.
1922 In Rapallo and Rome during early summer; meets parents in Venice in late summer. The Enormous Room published in mutilalated version by Boni and Liveright, New York.
1923 Summer at Guethary, France. Back in New York in autumn, moves to 4 Patchin Place, which remains his New York address until his death. Tulips and Chimneys published.
1924 In Paris on first of several short trips he makes to Europe during the later twenties.
1925 Wins Dial Award- Begins to write and draw for Vanity Fair. & and XLI Poems published.
1926 His father killed in an accident. is 5 published.
1927 Marries Anne Barton; this marriage also ends in divorce. Him published.
1928 Him produced in New York by Provincetown Players, April 18, James Light, director.
1930 No Title published.
1931 Trip to Russia. CIOPW, a book of pictures in Charcoal, Ink, Oil, Pastel, and Watercolors published. Viva

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