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Today is a gusty sort of autumn day, the kind that catches you by surprise, being more than 20 degrees cooler than it was yesterday, and filtering what light there is through a fine haze of spidery clouds. So when I signed onto my laptop and saw a quote from E.E. Cummings on my iGoogle homepage, it struck me as perfect for today.

Before you read the poem at all, I encourage you to read it aloud. I think you'll appreciate the sound of the poem better, and get a better a sense of its motion that way. (I grant you I could be wrong.)

a wind has blown the rain away
by E.E. Cummings

a wind has blown the rain away and blown
the sky away and all the leaves away,
and the trees stand. I think i too have known
autumn too long

          (and what have you to say,
wind wind wind—did you love somebody
and have you the petal of somewhere in your heart
pinched from dumb summer?
          O crazy daddy
of death dance cruelly for us and start

the last leaf whirling in the final brain
of air!)Let us as we have seen see
doom’s integration………a wind has blown the rain

away and the leaves and the sky and the
trees stand:
        the trees stand. The trees,
suddenly wait against the moon’s face.

Now the thing is, most folks think Cummings was quite the experimenter. And I suppose he was, but I'd like to draw your attention to the form of the poem you just read: It's a sonnet. It is, more specifically, a Shakespearean sonnet, rhymed ABABCDC'DEFEFGG' (where the little "prime" marks indicate the use of slant rhyme, rather than perfect line, as in "somebody" with "daddy" and "trees" with "face". The poem doesn't look like a Shakespearean sonnet at first because he's split the fourth line and tacked half of it onto the second quatrain, and because of some of the other indentations and punctuation added in there. But it is decidedly a Shakespearean sonnet and, what's more, most of it is in iambic pentameter as well (five iambic feet per line, taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM).

So Cummings may have been quite adept at experimenting, but he often worked within established forms in doing so. I love that about him. And I've only recently developed a real interest in his work, having known over the years a mere handful of his poems ("love is more thicker than forget", "i carry your heart with me", "maggie and milly and molly and may" and "in Just-spring").

I like the motion of this poem, and how it seems to spin down and across the page - something Cummings accomplished through careful word choice. I also like the imagery, and his phrase "o crazy daddy of death" - to me, he's speaking of Old Man Winter, but I suppose it could be Time or the Hermit or the Crone, depending on one's perspective. Because of Cummings's language, I picture the Reaper spinning his scythe across the landscape, leaving only those trees in front of the moon. I'd be interested in knowing what you make of this poem.

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( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 23rd, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC)
I love this portion of the poem:

"did you love somebody
and have you the petal of somewhere in your heart
pinched from dumb summer?"

"Pinched from dumb summer" -- those words bring to mind a number of thoughts and images and feelings from summers as a teenager or young adult (even if the words weren't intended to bring about such thoughts; I like it, though, when another person's words take you someplace else by surprise).

Thank you for sharing! Hope you're feeling better! Jeni
Oct. 23rd, 2009 07:48 pm (UTC)
Isn't that a great turn of phrase? I found myself wondering how he meant "dumb" - mute? stupid? I think the ambiguity is fantastic - and you're right, it does feel very young somehow. I love your association there!

Edited at 2009-10-23 07:48 pm (UTC)
Oct. 23rd, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC)
Wonderful poem (don't remember having seen it before). Love how the crazy daddy of death comes in (that sounds very cummings to me). I thought first of Old Man Winter because of the emphasis on wind throughout (a cold wind of seasonal change). But I also love your image of the Reaper with his scythe.
Oct. 23rd, 2009 07:50 pm (UTC)
There's so much Cummings I haven't read yet - and I've been delighted by the few new poems I've looked at. I think I'll have to buy myself a collection of his work (or put it on my holiday list - better yet, since hubby never knows what to get me!)

(Deleted comment)
Oct. 23rd, 2009 08:04 pm (UTC)
I admire Cummings's willingness to play with language the way he does. There's another poem of his written in rhyming quatrains that I particularly love, which was set to music by Jonatha Brooke and the Story. On the one hand, it's hard to know exactly what he's saying; on the other, I feel I know exactly what he means:

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail

it is more mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea

love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive

it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky
Oct. 23rd, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC)
Oh Crazy Daddy of the LEAVES! and Autumn and e.e.....
Oct. 23rd, 2009 08:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Oh Crazy Daddy of the LEAVES! and Autumn and e.e.....
It's one wild poem, isn't it?
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 23rd, 2009 10:17 pm (UTC)
Many of his poems are traditional forms tricked out to look a bit different - His "i carry your heart with me" is also a Shakespearean sonnet, and his "love is more thicker than forget" is cross-rhymed quatrains.
Oct. 24th, 2009 12:14 am (UTC)
"and have you the petal of somewhere in your heart" Now that's a lovely line.
Oct. 25th, 2009 03:21 am (UTC)
Cummings knew his way around a line.
Oct. 24th, 2009 01:12 am (UTC)
aw I love ee cummings, great poem to post!
Oct. 25th, 2009 03:21 am (UTC)
His work is so great.
Oct. 24th, 2009 03:17 am (UTC)
I love this! It has such a beautiful sense of motion. I'm partial to what I've read of e.e. cummings but I haven't read a lot.

Hope you're feeling much much better!
Oct. 25th, 2009 03:22 am (UTC)
You sound just like me - partial to his work, but not widely read in it. I think I'm going to ask hubby to get me a collection of Cummings's work for the holidays.
Oct. 24th, 2009 10:37 am (UTC)
Wow! A Shakespearean sonnet!! I never expected that from cummings!!

He really did make the poem swirl around and down like a leaf falling. Very fun. Perfect for our weather here, too!
Oct. 25th, 2009 03:24 am (UTC)
One of his most famous poems - "i carry your heart with me" - is also a Shakespearean sonnet. From what I've read of his work, he often worked within highly traditional forms, although you have to squint to see it sometimes!
Oct. 24th, 2009 01:32 pm (UTC)
What do I think? I think you should do an E.E. Cummings month o' crazy posts, that's what I think. Because, as you succinctly said: "it's hard to know exactly what he's saying; on the other, I feel I know exactly what he means"

I distinctly remember encountering him in high school and being completely fascinated to the point where I chanted some lines over and over like a mantra, but I never remember anyone talking about his interaction with formal structures of poetry like sonnets.

I'm assuming you saw the McSweeney article: "YouTube comment or E.E. Cummings?" http://www.mcsweeneys.net/links/lists/1vincent.html
Oct. 25th, 2009 03:27 am (UTC)
The one drawback to Cummings is that all of his work is still under copyright, so unless you're going to quote it only in part or engage in a teachery sort of post, one can't really just slap one of his poems on the interweb and move on.

His "i carry your heart with me" is also a Shakespearean sonnet, and "love is more thicker than forget" is written in cross-rhymed quatrains. Not that most folks bother to notice that, because his use of line breaks and slant rhyme and capitalization and punctuation makes it all look very different. But it's very much a use of traditional poetic forms.
Oct. 25th, 2009 03:28 am (UTC)
Loved the McSweeney's thing.
Oct. 24th, 2009 02:10 pm (UTC)
Great pick for the day. One of my favorite poets, next to Langston Hughes.
Oct. 25th, 2009 03:29 am (UTC)
Gotta love Hughes, too.
Oct. 24th, 2009 02:58 pm (UTC)
Great poem, but I had to do it Winnie the Pooh's (Disney version) voice :)
Oct. 25th, 2009 03:29 am (UTC)
Man, I'd love to hear that.
Oct. 24th, 2009 06:06 pm (UTC)
It brings to mind the beautiful desolation of a fall prairie devoid of water and bright colors but if you look closely the riot of variety is still there.

But then again maybe I'm just missing my horse and everything reminds me of where I keep her... Not sure.

Beautiful poem. Thanks for sharing. :)

Oct. 25th, 2009 03:30 am (UTC)
I understand your point - it still has that whirling sense of motion about somehow, even though you weren't using motion words at all in your description.

I hope you get some time with your horse soon!
Oct. 26th, 2009 05:46 am (UTC)
Yes, there is a lot of motion on the grasslands. Even on a reasonably calm day if there is any wind the grasses speak loudly.

And I got time with her today, and likely tomorrow and the day after. Thank you :)
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

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