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E. Cummings and His Most Popular Poem

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    “When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew.”- Arrigo Boito. Love is an often-fleeting emotion, a bright flash of lightning to heart that lights up the soul, but then sadly, fizzles and fades away into memory. True love, one that will last the test of time is a rare and beautiful thing, not often experienced but longed for and cherished. One must experience this ability to love wholeheartedly and be loved in return to truly appreciate the magnitude of love that E.E. Cummings expressed in his romantic poems. Unlike other art forms, a poet must paint a portrait of the heart using meaningful language. Cummings was such a poet; he had the ability to convey emotional volumes with only a few carefully chosen words. He was well-known for his modern poetry with profound connections to nature, love, and the use of untraditional syntax to express himself through his works. His love poems are uniquely his, and one poem, among those that he is famous for, shines the brightest. E. E. Cummings’ language in his most heartfelt poem“[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” captures the deep and abiding love he feels for his beloved through the use of metaphor and personification of nature, use of repetition of key words or phrases, and the use of unconventional grammar and punctuation techniques.

    Cummings’ use of language in the poem“[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” is rich in metaphorical statements, comparing natural elements to the poet’s lover. A metaphor is a figure of speech that directly compares two seemingly unrelated things that share common traits or characteristics. (Li & Shi). The metaphor that has the most significance in the poem to create a feeling of overwhelming love references a heart within a heart. The reader sees in line 1 and 2 of the poem, and again repeated on line 14: “i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart).” One cannot literally carry the heart of another around with them in their heart, however when used as a metaphor, it “serves as a reinforcement of the love that exists between the two. Not only does the subject metaphorically ‘carry the heart’ of the other, it is held “in’ the subject’s heart as well to further develop the feeling of oneness.” (Pickett 75). When analyzing why Cummings chose this heart-within-heart metaphor, it is clear the expression of love he feels for his beloved was something deep and permanent. Her love is his most prized possession that he owns, locked away for safe keeping by carrying it in the most loving and personal way he can; in his own heart. Cummings use of metaphor can also be seen in the comparison of his lover to the world. This metaphorical comparison can be found on line 7 of the poem where Cummings writes, “i want no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true.” Sara Nawaz states, “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” is about a deep and profound love for a beloved that transcends the soul…the poet uses metaphorical statements to compare a girl’s beauty to the world.” When contemplating why Cummings chose the metaphorical comparison of his lover’s beauty to the world, the reason becomes clear. In his eyes, she is the most beautiful creature that exists, surpassing all others. Her love is the only love he needs, and he uses the world metaphor to profess his true and loyal intentions. Cummings use of metaphor comparing love and nature in“[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” is a gushing, passionate display for the woman he adores.

    Cummings uses personification of natural elements to compare his deep and abiding love for his beloved to the moon, sun, and stars. Personification is a literary device in which human qualities are given to objects or ideas to enhance or clarify meaning. (Li & Shi). Personification is used in “[i carry your heart(i carry it in]”on line 8 and 9 of the poem where the reader sees “and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant/ and whatever a sun will always sing is you.” The moon cannot literally have meant something, or the sun sing of someone, however personification of such an event evokes love language on an epic scale. Pramudana Ihsan states, “Cummings uses personification with the sun, who is singing his song to the speaker’s beloved… the moon is used to convey meaning, feelings, or maybe mysteries which can be analyzed.” By delving more deeply into the significance of the use of personification in “[i carry your heart(i carry it in]” it is clear that Cummings used celestial bodies as a way of giving life to the vast and timeless love he feels for her. Another example can be found in line 13 of the poem, “and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart.” Again, we see personification of stars being pushed apart by the splendid awe and wonder of love for his beloved. “This integration of the real and ideal love…is reconciled into a homogenous duality…the simultaneous awareness of real and transcendent existence.” (Tal-Mason 90). The reader interprets the meaning of this statement by Patricia Tal-Mason as a connection between love and the cosmos; reaching beyond all space and time. Cummings use of metaphor and personification of nature in the poem “[i carry your heart(i carry it in],” speaks of an eternal and unbreakable bond; of love that transcends the universe.

    Cummings use of language to express his deep and abiding love for a woman is highlighted throughout the poem by repetition of key words or phrases. Repetition of words or phrases “repeated in writings give emphasis, rhythm, and/or a sense of urgency.” (Ihsan 149). This emphasis of repeating words or phrases creates rhythmic cohesion and provides the poet a way of accentuating emotional content. The poetry of Cummings is characterized through the repetition of themes which creates a highly lyrical quality. (Pagnini & Keir 362). The reader observes an example of repetitive emphasis in the poem “[i carry your heart(i carry in]” in which Cummings writes, “(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud/ and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows.” (Lines 11-12). The importance of repeating the words “root,” “bud,” and “sky” is to generate a feeling of scale or magnitude and reflect Cumming’s resounding feelings of love. Repetition enhances this magnitude of feelings; “…if the sentence states “the sky of the sky,” it means the highest, widest, most beautiful sky in the atmosphere.” (Ihsan 149). The reader interprets repetition of the “root of the root” as symbolic of the solid ground upon which Cummings builds his love. The “bud of the bud” is repeated to evoke the tender and fragile emotions of new love sprouting and taking shape. The “sky of the sky” is repeated to give the extent of how grand and far-reaching his love endures; beyond the vast expanse of the heavens. Cummings uses repetition of key words and phrases to anchor his feelings, which produces an emotionally charged fourth stanza that is vital to the poem’s message of undying love built on a strong foundation, pure and unshakeable.

    Cummings use of language in “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” captures the deep love he feels for his beloved using unconventional grammar and punctuation techniques. As a poet of the Modernist movement, Cummings was experimental and edgy, breaking the conventional mold regarding syntax and poetic structure. (Triem 13). According to Kristen Leatherwood, when discussing syntax in Cummings’ poetry, “every unorthodoxy of punctuation, spacing, and noncapitalization can be read functionally.” Cummings purposeful use of improper grammar, specifically all lowercase lettering, adds a visual aspect to the poem that is worthy of exploration. “E.E. Cummings does not use capital letters in his writings. I, a personal pronoun, according to the norms of grammar must be written in capital letter, is violated here…a deviation of general norms of grammar.” (Nawaz 52). Grammar deviations serve a legitimate purpose in Cummings’ poetry to produce strong visual impact. An example of this is witnessed in “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” with uncommon use of all lowercase lettering, specifically the letter “I” written as “i.” Aaron Moe states an opinion as to why Cummings uses the grammar violation of the lowercase “i” when he writes, “Cummings will most likely always be thought of as the poet of the EYE (and the i).” His poetry was written for the eyes as much as it was written for the ears. Because Cummings was a poet and an artist, he bridged the gap by “bringing together the verbal and the visual, two forms of art traditionally considered to be distinct and separate.” (Flajšar & Vernyik). Throughout the poem, “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” the lowercase “i” can be seen in lines 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 14. “i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)/i am/i go/i fear/i want/i carry.” When analyzing why Cummings chose to use only lowercase letters, specifically targeting the lowercase “i” in the poem, it is clear this grammar violation is not a mistake but an intentional way of conveying deeper emotional meaning and visual context. It gives the reader a feeling of intimate familiarity, a sense of casual dialogue that occurs between lovers, like a secret whispered to one another in a private embrace. Cummings use of all lowercase lettering, a very unorthodox grammar technique, adds an emotional punch and a visible artistic quality to the poem that would otherwise be lost with conventional syntax.

    Cummings uses unconventional grammar and punctuation techniques to highlight enjambment and lack of space between words, crafting a feeling of extreme closeness. This is visible in the entirety of the poem“[i carry your heart(i carry in]” as every line and stanza (except line 5) does not contain space and/or end in punctuation. The punctuation that is used in the body of the poem has all space removed in between key words. “Although [Cummings] sometimes joins words… he does so for a purpose, perhaps to give a sense of a blending together, a universality, or a reduction of individuality.” (Leatherwood 58). The reader interprets this overall lack of space between words as an extreme form of closeness, a melding of two people into one. Sara Nawaz states her observations, saying “Cummings’ use of enjambment adds to the poem’s lyrical quality. There is a rush of thoughts, which determines uncontrollable passion and love for beloved.” An example of enjambment and lack of space is found in line 7 of the poem. Cummings writes, “no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want.” If the author had allowed space to exist between words, or if he’d used formal punctuation, that shared closeness he created would have been lost; his love leaked out onto the page, spilled and wasted. Cummings use of unconventional grammar and punctuation is a critical aspect to the love language expressed in the poem, demonstrated through enjambment and lack of spacing between words.

    In the poem “[i carry your heart(i carry in]”, the most powerful unconventional punctuation and grammar technique Cummings uses to fully express true love is through the incorporation of parentheses. Parenthetical clauses are used throughout the poem to clarify meaning and avoid ambiguity by joining together words, phrases, or sentences. (Li & Shi). Parentheses are used heavily in the poem, for good reason. “The casual reader will most likely interpret “parenthesis” to mean “enclosure.” But “parenthesis” can also mean a departure from the main message, such as an aside or digression, or it can indicate an interlude or hiatus.” (Leatherwood 58). Michael Pickett goes a step further with his parenthetical analysis when he states, “Cummings’ use of parentheses is an attempt to incorporate a second dimension of thought or metadata within the poetic structure. Much like a journal that is kept by writers to contain their thoughts, Cummings is incorporating his thoughts within the textual form of the poem.” Parentheses form a striking “poem-within-a-poem” connotation for the reader. One of many examples of this use of parentheses is seen in lines 2-4 of “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” where Cummings writes within parentheses “(anywhere i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling).” Here the reader sees written within the parenthetical context his desperate dependence upon her love. She has complete control over every aspect of his life. Parentheses therefore, make all the difference in the poem for expressing the author’s vulnerability. For better or worse, his secrets are laid bare on the page, as if the reader is peering into his diary and catching glimpses of the most intimate moments he experiences when physically near or far away from his beloved. Cummings’ practice of untraditional punctuation, specifically using parenthetical clauses throughout the poem “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in],” creates an intimate inner dialog of his undying love that could not be expressed by any other method of punctuation.

    E. E. Cummings’ language in his most popular love poem“[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” captures the awestruck love he feels for his beloved through the use of metaphor and personification of nature, repetition of key words or phrases, and the use of unconventional grammar and punctuation techniques. He was a poet who broke all rules, pushed literary boundaries, and made people sit up and take notice of his poems. “Cummings’ perpetual concern with transcendental ideas led to the shining leaps on the page that made his works unique.” (Triem 14). His uniqueness gave him a perspective on love that portrayed not only the passion of falling in love, but of deep commitment; the love a person feels when that love is pure, unbreakable, and infinite. Not even death has power over this kind of love, for it is the ultimate connection between two souls that transcends the universe.


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