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Edward Estlin Cummings and His Poetry Review


Edward Estlin Cummings is amongst the most controversial figures of the 20th century American poetry. On the one hand, readers value him for sincerity and sensitivity in depicting the mystery of love as well as for idealized depiction of the beloved as well as for his sensual, almost three-dimensional verses dedicated to the fulfilling and memorable experiences of seemingly simple life episodes. Furthermore, Cummings is also distinguished for his straightforwardness in revealing the darker sides of the ostensibly democratic political system. On the other hand, he is also criticized for childish naivety and underlined simplifications and generalizations. In fact, Cummings’s poems briefly and accurately display the essential values such as the transcendent nature of love, the feelings of joy and pleasure from “living here and now” as one of the fundamental senses of existence and social responsibility in governance and policy-making as a social maxim.

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Love is a transcendent value in Cummings’s lyrics

Cummings’s tender and touching love lyrics apparently depicts love as the end in itself, or a state which deepens and intensifies the person’s perception of this world. In particular, Cummings’s early poem entitled “Thy fingers make early flowers” can be viewed as a manifestation of the desire for love which is stronger than death when approached from the perspective of a youth entering the world of romantic relationships. In fact, the protagonist of the poem is a young girl who personifies the constructive force of Spring which causes snow to melt and flowers to grow: “Thy fingers make early flowers/ of all things./ thy hair mostly the hours love:/ a smoothness which sings” (Cummings, lines 1-5). Spring is essentially associated with passion and love, as it also removes the ice of winter from human hearts. In the last stanza the author introduces the character of death, a similarly natural force that terminates human existence. Nevertheless, human mortality should not prevent anyone from falling in love and having blissful time with their beau: “though love be a day, and life be nothing, it shall not stop kissing” (Cummings, lines 20-21).

Thus, according to this poem, love is a natural and integral feeling and behavior, as strong feelings make the person forget about the finiteness of their days in this world. A more mature attitude towards love is shown in “somewhere i have never travelled” whose main character is the earthy woman rather than the anthropomorphous divinity of Spring. Each line of the verse reveals the narrator’s admiration of and amazement with the enigmatic personality of the fragile and delicate creature he shares his space and time with. Love in this work is represented mainly through the symbols of petals, which mean purity and serenity, and slight graceful gestures which indicate that the narrator is attentive and sensitive to his love lady’s thoughts and emotions. This sentimental carefulness points to the idea that love is not merely a feeling, but also a set of behavioral practices which includes mutual care and striving for understanding. Again, it is implied in the verse that love allows ascending to the psychological state of “forever”, or touching the eternity and eliminating the fear of death (Cummings, lines 13-16).

Existential themes in Cummings’s poetry

The philosophy of life, communicated in Cummings’s poems, can be described as “tasting” the pleasure of the current moment as opposed to delaying happiness for the future. For instance, the poem entitled “suppose” actually introduces the character, referred to as “life” who is lonely and consistently frustrated, as he has tendency to “crying to nobody something about les roses les bluets” (Cummings, lines 13-15). Furthermore the author portrays life as an old man wearing velour trousers and flowers on his head. At the same time, death is a young beauty who expects life to bring her flowers. In this sense, the symbol of flowers can be interpreted as the intrinsic rather than socially constructed dreams and desires which the person realizes too late and as a result fails to make true. Therefore, the poem implies that it is critically important to fully understand one’s own desires, even the most irrational, in order to avoid regretting and reproaching oneself towards the end of the life. In “into the strenuous briefness”, the narrator expresses his pure delight with his rewarding and fulfilling life: “I charge laughing/ Into the hair-thin tints/ of yellow dawn,/ into the women-colored twilight/ I smilingly glide. I/ into the big vermilion departure/ swim, sayingly” (Cummings, lines 1-8). His childish awe with the natural phenomena everyone is used to is further opposed to the rationality of the family institution referred to as “I do world” (Cummings, line 12). Apparently, the narrator finds it difficult to prove to the other half that marriage is overloaded with social conventions which impede upon the couple’s pursuit for happiness and living “here and now”.

Societal values in Cummings’s poetry

Cummings’s poems are also concerned with the injustice and corruptness of the bureaucratic system that requires permission for virtually every step in the life. In particular, the verse entitled “when serpents bargain for the right to squirm” (1946) satirizes the burden of the bureaucratic norms through using animal characters: “when serpents bargain for the right to squirm/ and the sun strikes to gain a living wage – / when thorns regard their roses with alarm/ and rainbows are insured against old age […]” (Cummings, lines 1-4). As a result of these unnatural compulsions endorsed by the government, the individual begins to identify themselves as a part of the social system and becomes the servant of the authorities, whereas the original purpose of government is serving the needs of its citizens.


The analysis of Cummings’s poetry suggests that the prevalent themes of his works are love in its purest meaning, eudemonia, or pleasure, both emotional and physical, which can be experienced at each moment of life, and liberal governance with its inherent individualistic and non-restrictive approach to each citizen. His concept of the fulfilling life l implies the idea that love relieves the fears and anxieties associated with human mortality and the notion that happiness is barely possible without distracting from certain social norms and stereotypes.

Works cited

Cummings, E.E. “Thy fingers make early flowers”. Web.

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Cummings, E.E. “somewhere i have never travelled”. Web.

Cummings, E.E. Selected Poems. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "Edward Estlin Cummings and His Poetry Review." November 10, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Edward Estlin Cummings and His Poetry Review." November 10, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Edward Estlin Cummings and His Poetry Review'. 10 November.

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