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may i feel said he
Edward Estlin Cummings was not your ordinary poet. His parents Edward and Rebecca Clarke Cummings were blessed with him on October 14, 1894 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There is little know of his early childhood. It all picks up in 1911 when he enters Harvard College. While a student at Harvard he contributes his work to the Harvard periodicals. In 1915 he graduates magna cum laude and delivers the commencement address on "The New Art." In 1916 he receives his MA from the Harvard Graduate school.
During World War I Cummings volunteered with the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps. He stayed over there after the war. He not only wrote poetry, but he was a playwright, prose writer, and a painter. Cummings’ work was not a traditional type of poetry either. He bent the rules on punctuation, grammar, syntax, diction, imagery, and rhythm. He didn’t capitalize his name either, he used all lower case letters.
Over the years he published numerous works and traveled all around the world. In 1925 He won the Dial Award. In 1926 he lost his father in an accident. In 1931 he shows off his paintings the first time in New York. In 1947 he losses his mother to death. He won the Bollingen Prize in Poetry in 1958. On September 3, 1962 e.e. collapses of a cerebral hemorrhage at Joy farm at 1:15 A.M.. (http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/8454/bio.htm)
The poem I picked was ‘may i feel said he’. To me it was about an extramarital affair that a man had. It all started out as light petting which ultimately lead to a sexual encounter. It was setup like a conversation between the two which was rather unique, but it got its point across. All through the poem there isn’t any capitalization and there are frequent parenthesis.
This poem was a real eye opener to me. It revealed real life issues which aren’t normally talked about. After looking through a good number of his works I noticed he dealt with many sexual issues and some other poems are still a mystery to me. His lack of punctuation and running together of words always lead to a wonderful mix of poetry.
Critics of Cummings’ poetry had a lot to say about it. They say, "he’s unconventional in every way". (Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia) They would always make comments on his improper use of the English language. Every critic noted his use of syntax, punctuation, diction, imagery, and combining of words. One source says, ‘He’s notable for his unorthodox technique, including such typographical idiosyncrasies as the avoidance of capital letters, and for satiric vitality that springs from a buoyant, romantic response. (Encyclopedia International)
Here’s the poem broken down into what i think it means.
-may i feel said he, he’s asking permission to feel this woman’s body.
-(i’ll squeal said she, she’s trying to make an excuse so he doesn’t touch her.
-just once said he, he’s trying to make it seem like it’s just that and nothing else
-it’s fun said she, she’s granting him permission to feel her body.
-(may i touch said he, he’s asking if he can’ touch her body no longer being happy with feeling.
-how much said she, asking what all he wants to touch hopefully drawing a line
-a lot said he, he’s thinking that he wants this to be more than touching at this point, he’s having strong sexual feelings
-why not said she, she’s giving him permission to touch a lot wanting this man as much as he wants her.
-(let’s go said he, wanting to do more than touch at this point asking her to do some more
-not too far said she, telling him that he has to stop before he goes too far and gets into trouble
-what’s too far said he, asking where she’s drawing the line
-where you are said she, telling him not to go further.
-may i stay said he, asking if he can stay the night.
-which way said she, making sure she doesn’t take it the wrong way.
-like this said he, most likely he made a move on her showing her what he wants
-if you kiss said she, falling into his trap she asks for a kiss from him
-may i move said he, trying to get in a better position
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Guggenheim Fellows, E. E. Cummings, Massachusetts culture
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