Outline



I.Introduction
A.Cummings’ life
B.Introduction to Cummings’ ideogram form
C.5 Poems being analyzed
D.Thesis Statement: Cummings utilizes unique syntax in these poems in order to
convey messages visually as well as verbally.
II.Poem analyses
A.l(a
1.Theme - not sadness or loneliness, but oneness
2.Syntax
a.instances of ‘1’ in the poem
b.shape of a poem representing leaf falling
3.Images - one and oneness
B.mortals)
1.Theme
a.‘eachness’
b.‘climbi’ and ‘begi’
2.Syntax
a."open ing"
b."of speeds of"
c."&meet&"
d."a/n/d"
e."(im" à "mortals)"
3.Images - circularity of poem
C.!blac
1.Theme
a.‘!’ and its results
b.Cummings’ comment
c.‘.g’ at end
2.Syntax
a.less free verse than one may first think
1.four and one line altering stanzas
2.lone consonants forming a sort of rhyme themselves
3.trees & agains; (whi) & sky; te, rees, & le
b.falling of a leaf
1.the whole poem’s syntax
2.line and word spacing
3.IrlI
3.Images
a.comma after sky and trees
b.black against white
D.swi(
1.Theme – differentiate b/w perception and conception
2.Syntax
a.swi(
b.terseness, primary lang., and unclear syntactical relationships
c.motion à Less
d.d,
3.Images – against ó across à swift à swimming
III.Conclusion
A.Cummings’ method
B.Comment on the ideogram



l(a

le

af

fa



ll

s)

one

l



iness







!blac

k

agains

t



(whi)

te sky

?t

rees whic

h fr



om droppe

d



,

le

af

a:;go



e

s wh

IrlI

n



.g

mortals)



climbi

ng i

nto eachness begi

n

dizzily

swingthings

of speeds of

trapeze gush somersaults

open ing

hes shes

&meet&

swoop

fully is are ex

quisite
theys
of
re

turn

a

n

d

fall which now drop who all dreamlike



(im







swi(

across!gold’s

rouNdly

)ftblac

kl(ness)y

a-motion-upo-nmotio-n

Less?

thE

(against

is

)Swi

mming

(w-a)s

bIr



d,

E. E. Cummings, who was born in 1894 and died in 1962, wrote many poems with unconventional punctuation and capitalization, and unusual line, word, and even letter placements – namely, ideograms. Cummings’ most difficult form of prose is probably the ideogram; it is extremely terse and it combines both visual and auditory elements. There maybe sounds or characters on the page that cannot be verbalized or cannot convey the same
message if pronounced and not read. Four of Cummings’ poems – l(a, mortals), !blac, and swi( – illustrate the ideogram form quite well. Cummings utilizes unique syntax in these poems in order to convey messages visually as well as verbally.
Although one may think of l(a as a poem of sadness and loneliness, Cummings probably did not intend that. This poem is about individuality –oneness (Kid 200-1). The theme of oneness can be derived from the numerous instances and forms of the number ‘1’ throughout the poem. First, ‘l(a’ contains both the number 1 and the singular indefinite article, ‘a’; the
second line contains the French singular definite article, ‘le’; ‘ll’ on the fifth line represents two ones; ‘one’ on the 7th line spells the number out; the 8th line, ‘l’, isolates the number; and ‘iness’, the last line, can mean "the state of being I" – that is, individuality – or "oneness", deriving the "one" from the lowercase roman numeral ‘i’ (200). Cummings could have simplified this poem drastically ("a leaf falls:/loneliness"), and still conveyed the same verbal message, but he has altered the normal syntax in order that each line should show a ‘one’ and highlight the theme of oneness. In fact, the whole poem is shaped like a ‘1’ (200). The shape of the poem can also be seen as the path of a falling leaf; the poem drifts down, flipping and altering pairs of letters like a falling leaf gliding, back and forth, down to the ground. The
beginning ‘l(a’ changes to ‘le’, and ‘af’ flips to ‘fa’. ‘ll’ indicates a quick drop of the leaf, which has slowed by a longer line, ‘one’. Finally, the leaf falls into the pile of fallen leaves on the ground, represented by ‘iness’. Cummings has written this poem so perfectly that every part of it conveys the message of oneness and individuality (200).

In mortals), Cummings vitalizes a trapeze act on paper. Oddly enough, this poem, too,
stresses the idea of individualism, or ‘eachness’, as it is stated on line four. Lines 2 and 4,
‘climbi’ and ‘begi’, both end leaving the letter ‘i’ exposed. This is a sign that Cummings is
trying to emphasize the concept of self-importance (Tri 36). This poem is an amusing