.the summings of cummings. {NaPoWriMo 2015 Day 25}

cummings2.jpg (23020 bytes)
e.e. cummings
might have used words like summings
 some say they don’t make sense
to them, a flip of the bird, his recompense

NaPoWriMO is almost over and although this has been a great lesson in committing to writing every day I can’t say that I’ll miss it one bit. Today’s prompt from NaPoWriMo  is to write a Clerihew poem. This is a much needed respite from all the brooding that’s been going on this month. Writers can have a great sense of humor, smile sometimes, and even laugh. Imagine that!

 Here are the rules for a Clerihew:
  • It is biographical and usually whimsical, showing the subject from an unusual point of view; it mostly pokes fun at famous people
  • It has four lines of irregular length and metre (for comic effect)
  • The rhyme structure is AABB; the subject matter and wording are often humorously contrived in order to achieve a rhyme, including the use of phrases in Latin, French and other non-English languages[2]
  • The first line contains, and may consist solely of, the subject’s name. According to a letter in the Spectator in the 1960s, Bentley said that a true clerihew has to have the name “at the end of the first line”, as the whole point was the skill in rhyming awkward names.[3]

Clerihews are not satirical or abusive, but they target famous individuals and reposition them in an absurd, anachronistic or commonplace setting, often giving them an over-simplified and slightly garbled description (not unlike the schoolboy style of 1066 and All That).

The unbalanced and unpolished poetic meter and line length parody the limerick, and the clerihew in form also parodies the eulogy. –cited

Cummings, E. E., (14 Oct. 1894- 3 Sept. 1962), poet and painter, was born Edward Estlin Cummings in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Edward Cummings, a Unitarian minister of the South Congregational Church in Boston, and Rebecca Haswell Clarke. Cummings’s mother encouraged him from an early age to write verse and to keep a journal. He was educated at the Cambridge Latin School and at Harvard College, where in 1915 he received hiscummings2.jpg (23020 bytes) A.B., graduating magna cum laude in Greek and English; he received his A.M. from Harvard in 1916. In his last year of college, he became intensely interested in the new movements in the arts through his association with John Dos Passos, S. Foster Damon, and Scofield Thayer and began to experiment with free verse and to develop as a self-taught cubist painter. The first book appearance of his poems was in Eight Harvard Poets (1917).

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Cummings volunteered for the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps, serving in France for five months before he and his friend William Slater Brown were arrested on suspicion of espionage because Brown’s letters had expressed pacifist views. Cummings’s experiences in the Depôt de Triage, a concentration camp at La Ferté-Macé, became the subject of his first autobiographical work, The Enormous Room (1922). Released from prison after four months, he was sent back to the United States, where he was drafted into the army. He served in the 73d Infantry Division at Camp Devens, Massachusetts, until November 1918.

After the war Cummings moved to New York, entering his cubist paintings in yearly exhibitions and attaining celebrity for the unusual poems he published in the Dial and other avant-garde magazines in the 1920s. In college he had followed the Imagist principles for poetry laid down by Ezra Pound: to use the rhythms of common speech rather than metrical regularity, to strive for compression and precision in language, to avoid worn-out poetic diction, and to make poetic statement by means of images. But by 1918 Cummings had created his own poetic style. Because he was a painter as well as a poet, he had developed a unique form of literary cubism: he broke up his material on the page to present it in a new, visually directed way. Some of his poems had to be seen in their printed arrangement before they could be completely understood. “The day of the spoken lyric is past,” he proclaimed. “The poem which has at last taken its place does not sing itself; it builds itself, three dimensionally, gradually, subtly, in the consciousness of the experiencer.”

In addition, Cummings expressed ideas through new grammatical usage: he employed verbs as nouns, and other locutions as new linguistic creations (for example, “wherelings, whenlings / daughters of ifbut offspring of hopefear / sons of unless and children of almost / never shall guess”). He indulged in free play with punctuation and capitalization. Lowercase letters were the rule; capitals were used only for special emphasis; punctuation marks were omitted for ambiguous statement; others were introduced for jarring effects. His use of the lowercase letter “i” not only became a well-known means of self-reference in his work, but also reflected a role that he created for himself: he was the underling, the unnoticed dreamer, the downtrodden one, the child in the man; yet by asserting his individuality in this way, he thrust himself forward and established a memorable persona.

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond

E. E. Cummings, 18941962

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands



3 thoughts on “.the summings of cummings. {NaPoWriMo 2015 Day 25}

  1. Nice one Jason! And thanks for the info on Cummings. His poetry has been influential to many – quite ironic when, as you say, he really didn’t care about his critics! A lesson for us all? To write to our own drummer – there will always be the critics and the supporters but as long as we are comfortable with what we have written, job done! Do hope you don’t disappear after April. You do your job well! 🙂


  2. I love the genius of E.E. Cummings. The poems you posted by him are among my favorite, particularly the last poem in this post. And your Clerihew poem about Cummings is hilarious! Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

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