Wednesday, April 18, 2018

[in Just-] - E. E. Cummings

in Just-
spring       when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles       far       and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queet
old balloonman whistles
far        and       wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and




ballonMan       whistles

Reproducing the spacing for the visual effect of an E. E. Cummings poem is always a bit of a challenge, so I've done my best for you, reader.  And what an effect!  The irregular spacing in the poem, particularly on the balloonman's "whistles       far       and wee" creates both movement and time.  How much more vividly can you imagine a long whistle, spaced apart, reaching far, calling children from their play to espy some bright balloons.

There's so much vivacity and life in the poem, but my favorite thing about it is the sense of timing.  It is not spring, it is just-spring.  Just barely have we crossed the threshold into spring, and "the world is puddle-wonderful."  I don't know if I can think of a better image to describe spring than that.  Being that it is just-spring, the world isn't yet in full bloom, but it is "mud-lucsious."  There's a wetness about the poem that promises bloom and growth.  Children play throughout the poem, adding to the overall sense of youth and newness that just-spring promises.

Repetition is also a key element of this poem.  So many times, a phrase will trail into or end with "it's spring."  Coupled with the presence of children, and the arrival of a balloonman(!, how exciting!), it creates an overwhelming sense of joy and excitement.  It's finally spring, it's just-spring, and things are happening again.  Eddie and Bill are playing marbles and at pirates, Betty and Isbel are jumping rope and playing hop-scotch and it's spring!

What sticks out most among these images of new life and children and joy is the balloonman.  He is lame footed, ("goat-footed") and presumably has trouble walking.  Someone who has no real choice but to be a peddler, possibly homeless.  He is not, however, treated poorly by Cummings, or by the children.  His whistle is what summons them, summons Just-spring.  He is included, rather than pushed out, and his whistle rings far        and      wee. 

I have often found that Cummings poetry looks more intimidating than it is, and that when you slow yourself down and get out of your head, and read it out loud, it becomes filled with childlike wonder.  There's a sense of joy and admiration at just how marvelous spring is.  He's so excited he says that it's spring three times.  The effect of the spacing, I find, just emphasizes time and space.  It fills the poem, and makes it feel bigger than it is.  I like that about it, and I like that the poem can't exist fully without being both heard and seen.

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