“may i feel said he”

October 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

may i feel said he
(i’ll squeal said she
just once said he)
it’s fun said she

(may i touch said he
how much said she
a lot said he)
why not said she

(let’s go said he
not too far said she
what’s too far said he
where you are said she)

may i stay said he
(which way said she
like this said he
if you kiss said she

may i move said he
is it love said she)
if you’re willing said he
(but you’re killing said she

but it’s life said he
but your wife said she
now said he)
ow said she

(tiptop said he
don’t stop said she
oh no said he)
go slow said she

(cccome?said he
ummm said she)
you’re divine!said he
(you are Mine said she)

– E. E. Cummings

If the previous poem was a cornucopia of copulatory categories, this poem suggests numerous sexual positions by the use of loose parentheses. They are all over the place: hugging him and her, straddling stanzas, short and long in their embrace, tossing and tumbling about the bed of the poem. The last pair rests solely on she after declaring that the two of them are one.

Despite his avant-garde leanings, Cummings remained rooted in traditional poetics throughout his career. The use of couplets to imitate two lovers goes back to at least Romeo and Juliet.

“maggie and milly and molly and may”

May 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

– E. E. Cummings

A certain sort of fun derives from unlocking the meaning behind Cummings’ (yes, capitalized) idiosyncratic use of punctuation. It’s best to view his typographic decisions as examples of impressionistic flourishes. In this poem, one trick is present, and that is the lack of space between word and punctuation mark. For me, it means a gaggle of giggling girls out-of-breath from dancing, jumping, running on the beach, but I think its real meaning is meant to stay ambiguous.

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