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Tulips & Chimneys by E. E. Cummings

Tulips & Chimneys

by E. E. Cummings

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E. E. Cummings is the poet best known for unusual punctuation, strange sentence configurations, and free flowing verses and stanzas. His work defines free verse. Did I know much about his poetry beyond that? Not really. I had read several of his pieces in anthologies or picture books, and I had a friend in college who greatly admired him. His reputation, combined with my lack of knowledge, prompted me to buy a couple of books by him while I was in college, which then sat on my shelf for years. However, I picked one up last year and slowly read my way through the entire collection of poems in the book, and now at least feel better acquainted with Cummings' themes and style.

Honestly, I didn't understand every poem in the book. Some were more transparent, like "cruelly,love" or "the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls", while others were cryptic, such as "Cleopatra built". Some of the poems in the book resembled more traditional poetry, with clearly defined stanzas and lines that were balanced, while others have lines running across the page in all different lengths and starting points, and some even chop and mix the very words together. The work reveals Cummings knowledge of classical poetic forms, and proves that he wasn't just throwing words on a page, but rearranged the acknowledge forms for a purpose, for a visual and aural effect.

I noticed recurrent imagery and themes in his work. Many of his poems are earthy and sensual. He often equates making love to nature and corruption, it is presented as both beautiful and awful. Many poems dwell on time and the ephemeral nature of beauty, love, and life. He also has poems that evoke the city, others that are more realistic depictions of simple scenes in daily life, and some that . I enjoyed reading this collection. Even without understanding every poem, by reading the whole book I gathered a wider picture of meaning and emotion. If I studied this in a formal setting, I'm sure I would take even more away from Cumming's work, but even just slowly reading through the work on my own, I expanded my poetic world. Poetry was once a major form of literature and communication, and it is seriously under read now. This book was another step in my efforts to open myself to poetry, and I'm glad I took it. ( )
  nmhale | Jan 24, 2015 |
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W.W. Norton

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