Thursday, January 15, 2009


External Form #4: "[l(a]" by e.e. cummings can be found on page 1042 of the Norton.
Click here to reference the poem that I am referring to. It's different than the one in the Norton.

I have actually wanted to discuss this poem since we read it in class earlier this year. I found so many things within it interesting.

I think the most obvious place to begin is cumming's separation of the words "lonliness" and "a leaf falls" as the basis of the poem. The poem seems to be mainly about just that--lonliness. Cummings is comparing a leaf falling from a tree to lonliness, which, I believe, is quite a valid metaphor. The image of a single leaf falling from a tree in the fall gives a feeling of lonlieness and emptiness.

However, Cummings seems to go even deeper into the subject of lonliness. In the Norton, the spacing of the lines is different than the other forms I found online. Cummings begins by separating the word lonliness from the beginning to the end of the poem. He is conveying that lonliness is separation and that it's both physical and mental. While we may feel mentally lonely (as represented in the metaphor of the leaf falling) we can also be physically lonely as represented by the spacing of the word.

Also, I am not sure if this is too far fetched, but the letters "la" and "le", the first two lines of the poem, are the feminine and masculine forms of the word "the" in French. In putting such a large gap between the two, he may be suggesting the separation of men and women. Further complicating the idea of lonliness. He is saying that without a companion or lover, humans feel the ultimate separation and lonliness.

Finally, right in the middle of the poem Cummings touches on the major theme of this poem. The 5th line is simply two lowercase L's next to each other: "ll". These L's can be looked at as "ones" when they are viewed as a single line in a poem. In putting them together, Cummings is saying that in the middle of lonliness, that the root of lonliness is one on one contact. Humans simply want one person to attach to and then lonliness is demolished. This can be further supported by his putting the letters O, N, and E on a line together spelling out the word "one." This seems intentional because it is one of the only lines with more than two letters on it.

Overall, I think Cummings has presented a complicated an deep poem as simple to fool us into thinking he has overlooked something. Yet, I think he planned it out to a "T" and was pushing us to look deeper for a meaning.

Let The Muse Be Free...

External Form #3: "One the Sonnet" by John Keats can be found on page 1025 of the Norton.

John Keat's sonnet, "On the Sonnet" follows neither the traditional Shakespearean or Petrarchan forms of the sonnet. Keats is actually criticizing both of these forms of the sonnet, saying that have such a restricted structure loses the essence of poetry.

Keats begins by alluding to Andromeda; it is a Greek myth of a woman who was chained to rock and left to die by the sea. He is paralleling the poem with Andromeda in saying that by using these "dull rhymes," poets are leaving their sonnets and poems out to be swallowed and forgotten forever. Keats wants the reader to think out of the box and go beyond Shakespeare and Petrarch. He refers to a letter he wrote called "Poesy", in which he expressed his distaste for the current accepted forms of the sonnet.

He also talks about the"misers of sound and syllable." A miser is someone who is afraid of spending money. In reference to this poem, Keats seems to be saying that in writing sonnets, poets become misers of sounds and syllables and instead of using them as they please they savor them and ultimately lose the meaning of the poem. Keats' final advice to use is to "let the Muse be free" and allow our imaginations to wander. He doesn't want us to be afraid of stepping out of the restrictions of a traditional sonnet. Actually, he encourages us to do so and move beyond the restrictions of time.

Monday, January 12, 2009

a space in the lives of their friends

External Form #2: beware: do not read this poem by Ishmael Reed can be found on p. 1040 of the Norton.

This poem has multiple factors contributing to the external form and its significance to the poem. To begin, the apparent changes in punctuation and grammar stand out quite a bit. The author puts in a lot of spaces and commas as well as punctuation marks where they don't belong. I think he did this to give an exaggerated feeling to the poem. He puts spaces where he wants the reader to feel the detachment within the poem. For example, he uses a lot of spaces when he talks about the old woman in the beginning. We feel her detachment from the world through the author's use of the large spaces between words and phrases.

In addition, the author didn't use any capital letters, including in the title. I think this makes the poem feel more casual and like a story. He is telling the reader a story and giving warning at the same time. However, we do not pick up on the warning right away because of the casual nature of the poem. If the author had used all capital letters then we would get a more alarming feeling; but he chose to use all lowercase which presents a laidback feeling in the poem.

I think that the author used these methods to drag us in to the poem. Ironically, he is warning us not to get dragged in. He is warning us to stay attached to the world outside like the woman with the mirrors did. His imagery of the poem physically swallowing the reader is wen I finally caught his point. He wants us to step back from poetry and instead of letting it eat our minds and bodies, just enjoy it for what it is. Do not become like the old woman with the mirrors and simply become obsessed with your own mind. Share poetry with others and therefore make friends, if you don't listen to what he says then you will be separated from people forever.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun...

External Form #1: Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare can be found on p. 1034 of the Norton :)

This sonnet by William Shakespeare is one of his few outright humorous sonnets. It is written in the traditional English Sonnet format consisting of the abab cdcd efef gg rhyme scheme. It is fourteen lines, just as a sonnet is classified to be.

Shakespeare uses the 4-4-4-2 format, meaning three quatrains and and one couplet in that order. He uses each quatrain to build up to his ultimate point made in the final couplet. The first quatrain in Sonnet 130 consists of four separate comparisons of the speaker's lover. Each comparison (or lack thereof) is described in one line. For example, the speaker describes his mistress' eyes in line one, her lips in line two, and so on.

However, as he continues, the speaker builds up his argument and utilizes two lines for each argument. This gives the feeling of more passion and thought in the speaker's mind. The speaker uses two lines to describe his mistress' cheeks, breath, voice, and walk. The extra description and space gives more significance the the speaker's opinion of his mistress. However, we must remember that the speaker is building up to a certain point which he reaches in the final two lines, or the last couplet.

Here, the speaker admits that despite the most human characteristics of his mistress, he loves her more than anything. He would much rather love her for who she is than try to make false comparisons to make her seem more beautiful.

I don't think Shakespeare's only purpose in this sonnet is to speak of the mistress. He also seems to be mocking many kinds of the traditional love sonnet. He says that while this mistress may be ugly and less than graceful, she is true and rare. Petrach, an Italian writer, wrote most of his poems describing a woman he did not know but was in love with named Laura. It is possible that Shakespeare was mocking his style and subjects of writing in writing this sonnet.