As of late, I’ve been in a little bit of a funk. I haven’t read or written in exactly a week, which for me is like a lifetime, and I feel guilty about it. I surmised that I would get like this following the end of my daily interactions with English, but I don’t know how to get out of it. The worse part of is all is the loss of my favorite reading spot (a nice little spot outside of S211); I’ve tried a few new ones to replace it, but they don’t have the same mystique. I figured reading or writing would help the situation but its been challenging to bring myself to do either. (I’ve started two posts and have carried my Faulkner around religiously but neither have I had the wherewithal to really delve into.) I keep telling myself that I’m being ridiculous–which I almost certainly am–but my acknowledgment is not helping me whatsoever. I don’t know what to write or how to write it anymore. Where have I gone? I feel entirely lost.
My wallowing in self-pity will end here. When I began this post, I didn’t know if I’d be able to finish writing anything at all and despite the fact that I’m still unsure if I will, I’ve stumbled upon a legitimate topic that is unrelated to my issues. It happened to dawn on me that there was a poem that I discovered a while back that didn’t do it for me at first, but reminiscing about it brought me a great deal of joy. The poem was E.E. Cummings’ “[in Just-],” a poem about muddy puddles, a happy poem.
in Just-spring when the world is mud-luscious the littlelame balloonmanwhistles far and weeand eddieandbill comerunning from marbles andpiracies and it’sspringwhen the world is puddle-wonderfulthe queerold balloonman whistlesfar and weeand bettyandisbel come dancingfrom hop-scotch and jump-rope andit’sspringandthegoat-footedballoonMan whistlesfarandwee
The initial problems that I had with Cummings’ poem lie in the fact that he totally disregards the rules. Who the hell said he could have so many damn line breaks! Necessary? I think not. I don’t know how you personally feel about rule breakers, but I’m not so fond of them; maybe it’s because I was indoctrinated by the MLA handbook or maybe it was the Catholic schooling in my formative years that brainwashed me, either way, I’m definitely a rule follower. There’s a time and a place for the rules to be thrown out the window and I’m beginning to learn that poetry is one of those places. So needless to say, E.E. Cummings wasn’t the first poet I was drawn to when I first got my feet wet with poetry because of his rampant rule breaking. This poem includes many of his rule breaking tendencies; it has myriad line breaks, interesting punctuation, and strange spacing.
I found some criticism–I know how shocking–and it confirmed at least one of my conclusions about the poem: that the purpose of most of Cummings’ punctuation is to express the joy specific to children. Iain Landles writes, “The unusual compounds that Cummings invents are suggestive of a “child’s language”: hence, “mud-luscious” and “puddle-wonderful.” These compounds have been described by Richard Kennedy as “the natural condition that children enjoy (but that adults dislike).”” I have to admit this conclusion about the spacing and punctuation being evocative of the mood of the poem wasn’t something I thought of, or even agreed with, upon first read; it wasn’t until after my (former) English teacher made me take another look at it, rather than just writing it off, that I realized that he is, indeed, right and this critic seems to agree.
Landles also points out that all the “and” clauses make the poem sing-song-y and nursery-rhyme-esque. As with most criticism, the critic usually builds to some big, lofty conclusion about theme but for this poem, it isn’t so. All that Landles does is prove that this poem essentially has no point…but in having no real point it definitely has meaning. Which brings me to a quandary: what’s the point of writing? Does it even have to have one? I often find myself asking these questions of my own writing–as evidenced by my minor breakdown at the beginning of this post–as well as other people’s. There’s no pre-requisite for writing. No matter the form, be it a poem or a blog post, sometimes expressing a feeling or reminiscing on a memory is enough to make something worth writing. In watching a spoken-word poem by Sam Sax (which can be seen here at 19:37), I heard a line about written language that rang particularly true to me: “There’s a theory of [written] language that suggests it was created to touch the ineffable, approach God, give shape to what by its nature is priceless.” I love this line. All writing doesn’t have to Pulitzer material; most of mine isn’t, that’s for sure. It just has attempt to give form to the abstract, give form to feeling. That being said, I was wrong about E.E. Cummings (as I was wrong about my Shakespeare hatred and my generalized poetry hatred–but let it be known I was right about my black-and-white-movie hatred). Cummings’ work doesn’t have the depth of Frost’s “Home Burial,” that I love so dearly, or Yeats’ “Leda and the Swan” but that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the poem. Rather it’s my error. I’m looking for an apple in a bowl of oranges. Cummings’ poem captures an emotion perfectly and unexpectedly. That’s why it works.
As I touched on in the beginning of this post, I feel as though there’s a war in my head between what I want to say and what I think I should say and the conflict that ensues between the two sides is what prevents me from writing. It’s always when I stop being and starting thinking that I get down on myself. This post is certainly not my best post (paper checker gave me a C). It’s sort of like Cummings’ poem in that it has no real point, yet, it had to be written. Writing this post helped to remove the rubble blocking my writing/reading flow; now I’m raring to go. With no deadlines, I’m making my own. From now on, I will post every Sunday. If I’m in the middle of a book (like I am now with my current Faulkner), I’ll either write about a poem/short story or do an in-the-process post. Here’s to the hope that it’s only up from here.