Of all literary genres known to mankind, poetry isone form that has an unclear distinction, standard, and structure. Indeed, 21stcentury literature is replete with evidences of deviation from the usual formof language – or poetic license as they put it. Many poets are going interestedin linguistic experimentation in which syntax, lexis, capitalization, andpunctuation are deemed to be unconventional and unique.
Speaking of deviation of the norm, Edward EstlinCummings, or often stylized as e.e. cummings, is quite the pioneer of anavant-garde poetry, especially how he writes his poems in a peculiar andunusual fashion. Withthe rise of stylistic analysis in literature, the works of e.
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e. cummings arebeing put into the limelight wherein readers and critics can view his poetryinto a linguistic perspective and how looking into its form would reveal a newmeaning and interpretation. This paper would look into the poem mOOn Over tOwns mOOn (1935) and will beanalyzed in terms of linguistic deviations in two levels (graphological, and lexicallevels). Likewise, peculiarities in grammar, and syntax will also looked intothe poem correspondingly. Inanalyzing Cummings’ poems’ it’s graphology is the easiest to identify, since itis in the most superficial level of linguistic deviation (Li & Shi, 2015). In the poem,spacing, punctuation, uppercase and lowercase letters, line divisions andbreaks are styled unusually.
These purposeful idiosyncrasies have effectivelyemployed all the possibilities of visual patterns in this poem. Take forexample, of all the letters in the poem, the letter ‘O’ seemed to appear 18times (11 times capitalized, 7 times decapitalized). Given much emphasis to theletter ‘O’, the reader is left to assume that the letter ‘O is thesymbolization of the moon.
In the first two stanzas, the letter ‘O’ is inuppercase – it can suggest a magnification or emphasis of the moon, showing thefullness and roundness of the moon hanging high and watching over the towns.Additionally, the capitalized ‘O’ may also imply wide-open eyes and mouths ofthe townspeople that reveals their excitement, eagerness, and anticipation atthe sight of the moon. On the other hand, it can be seen on the last stanza thedecapitalization of the letter ‘O’ while the other letters are in uppercase.This may indicate that in the latter part of the poem, the previously excitedtownspeople lost its interest while looking at the moon, and turning into ablind eye to the beauty the heaven has to offer to them.
This meaningfulscattering of small and capital letters on the poem is only one of Cummings’usual typographical oddities. He used letters to effectively employ all thepossibilities of visual patterns, especially in this poem. Inrelation to words and lexicon, it is observable that this poem consists of hisinfamous neologisms and lexical coinages, through affixation such as’gropingness’ and ‘dreamest’. The addition of the suffixes –ness (noun suffixto express a state, condition, quality, or degree) and –est (adjective oradverb suffix used to form the superlative degree) intend to imply newly-formedconcepts on searching for something by reaching (groping) or visualizingsomething in its extreme (dream). These neologisms help in evoking the visualimagery in the readers’ minds. Furthermore, it is also manifested in the firstand second stanzas of the poem, its second line is always a verb – ‘whisper’and ‘float’.
The use of these verbs also imply to describe the moon – ‘whisper’can be a personification of the moonlight, a silent connection between the moonand the man, while ‘float’ can be used to describe the position of the moon inthe sky. These verbs indeed are used wisely in the poem to induce an image ofthe moon. Asfar as grammar and syntax is concerned, the poem sacrificed the formal rules oflanguage. In the second stanza, the second ‘who’ takes an unlikely position inthe sentence as its inclusion is somehow redundant. However, if it wasgrammatically correct, the pattern 5-1-5-2 syllabication may have been broken.
Likewise, despite an obvious chaos in grammar and word order, the poem haseffectively commenced an expression of spontaneity and precision. Indubitably,e.e. cummings lived up to his reputation of producing novelty and experimentalpoems. Despite this, he has excellently seamed words that maybe peculiar atfirst glance, but will incorporate a lot of meaning and imagery.
Discerning thesepurposeful idiosyncrasies of Cummings’ poetry through stylistic analysis issomehow an attempt to comprehend his liberties in art, aesthetics, and visualstyle, command of vocabulary and remarkable innovation which he enjoys toreflect his feelings of appreciation of natural beauty, particularly in thispoem.