Edward Estlin Cummings, commonly known as E. E. Cummings, was a groundbreaking poet and painter. He was from Cambridge Massachusetts, and most of his poems were free verse and on the subject of nature, romance, life, or death. E.E. was an expert at ignoring convention. Grammar and syntax were not used properly by Cummings (gasp!), but were struck down and reused in an unorthodox manner for dramatic visual effect.
He often broke individual words into pieces and rearranged them in a seemingly insane way, but there was a method to his madness. In this way, he was absolutely revolutionary. His poems often show a careful consideration for the movement of the reader’s eyes, and a deep understanding of the individual letters that make up the words of his poems.
As a painter, he brought his love of representational art to the poetry page. I’m sharing his poem “The sky was” because it’s a good example of what I like to call his “poetry paintings.” In this short poem, the text reads much like a painting would... if you could read a painting. ;)
The actual words, if you were to strip the poem down, and blankly read it out loud (the horror!) are as follows: “The sky was candy luminous edible spry pinks shy lemons greens coo1 chocolates under a locomotive spouting violets.” Those words create a beautiful description of a sunset. It’s the type of half-crazed passionate descriptions that are typical for a Cummings poem.
The reader can almost see him, with his eyes bugged out, excitedly throwing his arms in the air as he describes the wonder of a sunset. However, Cummings takes it further than just using descriptive words. He forces the reader to feel dizzy in wonder, as well.
Have you ever watched a sunset, taking in the different shades of color here and there, and types of clouds in the sky, and realized that your eyes were dancing around so much that you’re starting to feel a little nauseous?
“That purple cloud at the horizon is breathtaking, and the pink ones near the trees are shaped like a train, and the yellow wispy clouds over there are really beautiful, and over here if looks like....”
The way E. E. used syntax, in a scattered and billowing way, forces your eyes to dance across the sunset in wonder with him. He takes you not just into a description of the sunset, but makes you physically look back and forth at his description. There’s something really special about taking representational art, and meshing it with poetry. I love when different styles of art mix. :)
Be back soon!