Sunday, June 19, 2011

e.e. cummings - [l(a]


This poem by e. e. cummings fascinates me, because it exists outside of the aural dimension we usually associate with poetry.  It functions like visual art, but sticks in the head like poetry.  The words we can extract from the poem are "loneliness", and "a leaf falls."  Interestingly, "a leaf falls" is embedded within "loneliness."  This is a meaning that can only exist in a visual mode that relies on visual arrangement of words.  A short film of a leaf falling may suggest loneliness, but it can't carry the same impact as this poem, which literally embeds a leaf falling into the image of loneliness.

The other image, "oneliness" is a declaration of solitude and wholeness.  I feel like Cummings is making a differentiation between being lonely and being alone.  "Oneliness" to me sounds like a condition of being whole, being one with something.

In terms of content, the statement, "a leaf falls" is active.  It's a statement.  The physical structure of the poem enforces that, forcing the eye to dart back and forth across the hyper-short lines, much as a leaf zigs and zags towards the ground.  It's a perfect representation of a leaf falling.  But why must a leaf falling be lonely?  The poem conjures such a strong image of solitude that any other mood would be inappropriate.  It's a lonesome death, but somehow beautiful and thoughtful.

Does the image of the poem carry weight for you in a way that words cannot?  Do you disagree with my assertion that the active nature of reading is perfectly suited to reflect the act of a leaf falling?  Are there any ways to convey the same activity without resorting to a visual arrangement?  And is it poetry, if it relies on its visual medium so heavily that it cannot be properly pronounced?  Let me know your reaction.



    i wrote a long entry here but it was lost...lonely as me

    Go to the link above to see this poem shared

    one, one, one-iness: 1one1iness--complete and utter singularity

  2. I agree with ALL your assertions and I reply YES! to all your questions!...On the other hand, I've learn A LOT about the poem - and cummings' poetry for that matter - by reading your so clear and bright analysis. Thank you!

  3. This is great. In my middle school we're talking about how a poem's structure can affect its meaning and this poem is a shining example. Your analysis is spot on, in my view. I'd also add re: "oneliness" - which is also embedded in the word "loneliness" conveys strength, a counter statement to what is usually felt by being alone. That it's OK to be alone. Another thing in terms of structure, that helps to convey that isolation and loneliness, is the sheer white space around the poem. You actually notice how blank and white the page is around the poem. How lonely the poem itself looks on that big 8.5x11 sheet of paper. Could be a stretch, but....

  4. This is the poem that started my poetry career. What it told me is stretch when you write, think outside the line. If it makes you feel you can call it a poem

  5. this is smart, but please don't change the poem's structure by taking out the original stanza breaks as you do! it is not all one stanza (as you have put it in above), and the differently spaced stanzas cummings constructed really contribute to the image of the leaf falling and the isolation of certain lines of the poem as well.

  6. nice work on poem admin keep carry on.
    best whishes:
    nimra yasmeen

  7. Omg was so surprised when read this I almost started to cry it was just so beautiful

  8. Its totally different structure and ways and then understanding also its difficult but it's nice

  9. This may sound strange but I first looked this poem up when I saw a leaf fall similar to this poem. I just googled "yellow leaf fall" & it was one of the first links. The yellow leaf fell, from what seems like out of nowhere, as I stood out back of my work with a coworker. The way it fell & came at me(from a side perspective) looked exactly like the structure above but it did zip zag as it twirled in between the waves it made at me. The last scoop was the longest & my coworker had such an expression on her face when I pointed it out, I knew what we saw was quite strange. When the leaf hit the ground, it was lobes down. There were five points to this leaf of yellow & I am not quite sure where the leaf originated from. It looked like a maple leaf meets hemp leaf & it was early August 2015 with the color of mid October leaf. When the leaf hit the ground however, for figurative language let's say like a hand hitting the ground, "the thumb" lobe stuck out with all the rest of the "fingers" but the "index finger" lobe broke off as the lobes all curled in & it rolled on the ground. I do wonder if this has a meaning as well.

  10. Great poem! 100 recommend!

  11. Such a somber poem about a leaf's separation from what gave it life. Me, I don't believe that oneliness is being expressed as a celebration, a positive portrayal, or distinction from being lonely. Rather, I feel it is just a statement about how one dies, which is after all, a singular journey. One. l. iness. I can't think of a more profound statement expressed in fewer characters.

  12. A perceptive analysis, over all, but you miss one extra element: the word "iness" (the last line) also carries the association (like "one" and the letter "l" previously (which could also be read as the number "1" ) of a deeper level of meaning that subtly subverts the surface connotations of "loneliness" as something undesireable. That is, "I-ness"--the experience of being a subjective self, is quintessentially a solitary experience for each of us, yet somehow it is all caught up in the experience of Oneness. From this perspective, the identity of the falling leaf and that of the speaker are entwined (quite literally) as one "I-ness"--an experience, not of loneliness, but of communion in impermanence.