A Poem for a Thursday #6


I mentioned in my last post that I was reading The G.I.'s: The Americans in Britain, 1942-1945. When I was looking for a poem for today's post I started wondering about the poets who were writing during WWII. E.E. Cummings was an American poet who wrote almost 3,000 poems. He used unusual syntax and a lot of lower-case spelling. Norman Friedman, who wrote a book about Cummings, said that Cummings' innovations "are best understood as various ways of stripping the film of familiarity from language in order to strip the film of familiarity from the world. Transform the word, he seems to have felt, and you are on the way to transforming the world." Cummings was of fighting age during WWI.  He did write poetry during WWII. The poem I am using here was written in July 1943 and has a feeling of dread about it that must have been common at the time.

what if a much of a which of a wind
gives the truth to summer's lie;
bloodies with dizzying leaves the sun
 and yanks immortal stars awry?
Blow king to beggar and queen to seem
(blow friend to fiend:  blow space to time)
--when skies are hanged and oceans drowned,
the single secret will still be man

what if a keen of a lean wind flays
screaming hills with sleet and snow:
strangles valleys by ropes of thing
and stifles forests in white ago?
Blow hope to terror; blow seeing to blind
(blow pity to envy and soul to mind)
--whose hearts are mountains, roots are trees,
it's they shall cry hello to the spring

what if a dawn of a doom of a dream
bites this universe in two,
peels forever out of his grave
and sprinkles nowhere with me and you?
Blow soon to never and never to twice
(blow life to isn't:  blow death to was)
--all nothing's only our hugest home;
the most who die, the more we live

what if a much of a which

e.e. cummings

4 comments

  1. I hadn't read anything by him before. Unusual, it certainly benefits from a couple of reads.

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    1. I remember studying a few of his poems in high school. There is another one I love called "I carry your heart."

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  2. I must say my first read I did not like it. Was confused. My second reading and I felt the same. Came back to it today because i knew if you had selected it for a Thursday poem there must be something I was missing. This time I read it slowly and I found with appropriate pausing it suddenly had meaning. I can't say I am a fan, but did find it interesting. I then read "i carry your heart" and actually did like it. Much easier on my brain!

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    1. I like the way he plays with words and the flow to the language he uses. A lot of poetry seems to benefit from being read multiple times. Some poems I like are ones I originally had to read in high school and didn't care for at first but after I read them five million times for English class they grew on me.

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