Upon first glance, it would seem that ee cummings is one of the most eccentric poets in modern poetic history. This certainly is true, and his artistic exploration of, and his pushing the boundaries of, poetry is evidence of this. While seeming at first to be esoteric, ee cummings instead touches mainly on one central theme throughout the majority of his poetry - the theme of love.
Whether it is love itself or the desire to express and receive love, cummings returns to that well again and again. He does not, however, beat the proverbial dead horse. His most famous work is, of course, [i carry your heart with me(icarry it in]. I find that a more poignant poem is the lesser known i have found what you are like.
First read the poem for enjoyment. Take everything about it in - the sound of the words flowing together, the physical structure of the poem, the insouciance of the joining of words, the hyper-acute attention to mechanics, and the literary devices. As a poet, ee cummings took all of these elements and more into consideration.
The poem is peppered with literary devices. The use of alliteration (feathers frightened fields), assonance (club/of, deeds/green, club/justly), repetition (coolness), simile (you are like the rain), and some true and slant rhymes (fields/wields, lurch/which) contribute to its success. But these are just devices - they only speak to one level of the poem. Another level is the tone and mood - what the writer felt and how you feel after reading it.
Love poems are a dime a dozen. Mostly they are poorly imagined and written pieces of drivel. The difference with ee cummings is that he expresses the usual in an unusual way. Instead of saying “the rain falls lightly on the fields,” he says rain “feathers frightened fields with the superior dust-of-sleep,” bringing to mind the image of plants bowing under the weight of the raindrops they hold. Instead of saying that wind blows flowers back and forth, cummings says the wind “wields easily the pale club,” and the “souls of flower strike the air in utterable coolness,” describing both their movement and the lack of sound within the breeze. The imagery is hued with the “green thrilling light” and “thinned newfragile yellows,” which describe the swaying of the stems and petals of flowers gently moving in the breeze.
Most importantly, I believe, is how cummings describes his feeling when he sees the object of his love. Instead of coming straight out and saying “I love you,” or attempting a ham-fisted allusion, cummings says “the coolness of your smile is stirringofbirds between my arms.” The place between his arms is his chest, and inside the chest is a heart bursting with joy at seeing his love. This image of his heart coming to life as he sees his love, as a bird would stir and begin to flap its wings, slowly at first and then more fervently, demonstrates the excitement of love. All the speaker wants is to see his love and enjoy, perhaps, a kiss - one that he has thought of for a while.
Understanding that this is not his most popular piece, ee cummings has crafted what I feel is a genuine appreciation of the excitement and stirring of love without dumbing down the reader or watering down the content. His tone is hopeful, excited, and optimistic, and I feel it creates a similar mood in the reader.
If you have some time, explore the poetry of ee cummings. He stands as a pioneer of the imagist movement, and his groundbreaking style continues to inspire.