Cummings resorts to the absolute freedom of words and punctuation to create a poem of perfect joy and
exuberance for life, nature and God. Indeed, he reaches beyond the five senses and relies on his intuition
to reach the fullness of spiritual awakening.
NOTE ON THE POET
ee cummings -- his real name was Edward Estlin -- was born in Massachusetts in 1894. His father was
a professor of Sociology and Political Science at Harvard University but who later became a Unitarian
Cummings was himself a Harvard graduate, obtaining a Masters degree in English and Classical Studies
in 1916. His intelligence and novel way of thinking, however, caused him to be ostracised and so he found
solace in his poetry.
Although he is known for his flamboyant style of writing, he also published a couple of novels and four
plays -- and was an artist who excelled in both drawing and painting.
Cummings' way of thinking was often transcendental, i.e. he believed it possible to reach an ideal spiritual
state by use of intuition rather than through established religious beliefs. Indeed, he reveals this concept
in "i thank You God for most this amazing".
His poetry was shaped by romantic tradition -- for example, he wrote many sonnets -- but he is best
known for his idiosyncratic style in which he used little punctuation, often wrote in the lowercase and
jumbled up the order of words.
It has been said that his poetry often makes little sense until it is read aloud. On the other hand, several
of his poems reveal his artistic flair in that they are pictures painted in words, e.g.
He was also known for his satire when addressing social issues, but he had a strong bias towards the
exuberance of love, sex and spiritual rebirth.
Cummings died of a stroke on September 3, 1962. He was 68 years of age. He had won many awards
for his work.
Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:
"i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes"
- The poet uses small letters throughout, even for his name. Why, then, does he use the upper-case
for "You" and for "God"? (4)
- When the poet significantly alters the word order, he causes us to see multiple meanings in his words.
Can you list TWO different meanings in "for most this amazing day"? (2)
- To what would "the leaping greenly spirits of trees" be referring? (4)
- What does the poet mean when he says, "for everything which is infinite which is yes"? Why
"(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)"
- Why should this be the sun's birthday? (4)
- What is the meaning of "gay"? (2)
- What does the poet mean by the word "illimitably"? (2)
"how should any -- lifted from the no
of all no tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing thing -- human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?"
- Why should the poet mention "tasting touching hearing seeing breathing"? (2)
- How is it at all possible to free ourselves from "tasting touching hearing seeing
"(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)"
- Is this a rhyming couplet? (2)