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Analysis and comments on the boys i mean are not refined by e.e. cummings

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Comment 11 of 101, added on November 1st, 2005 at 6:32 PM.

I think larry is very much so on target with relating this to war, but it
can be a poem about society and morals at the same time. This poem reminded
me a lot about George Orwells novel "1984" by relating sex to violence. But
from the surface or at a more in-depth view it's a great poem!

ashley from United States
Comment 10 of 101, added on October 1st, 2005 at 3:07 PM.

These words were put to music over ten years ago by Ricky Broussard, a
Cajun/Texan, who lives in Austin, Texas. He performed it in a wild,
wreckless, basic rock and rollin' slam bam, wild-ride delivery with his
band Two Hoots n A Holler. He recorded it too. It's very good, but was even
better heard live. I love e.e. cummings' poems, but could not believe the
boys i mean was written by him.

Amanda Krebs from United States
Comment 9 of 101, added on August 12th, 2005 at 12:26 PM.

I think the parallel between girls and war is always a funny one,
especially when you get to make puns on the use of one's "gun" - but I
think the use of "I mean" in the first line and recurring lines is
important not just to keep the syllable count, but also to make another
parallel between the boys not being refined and war not being refined. The
fact that he has to point out that he means the boys specifically just so
you don't take unrefined to describe everything else I think implies that
everything else really is. Of course the soldiers are to be viewed as this
since they are referred to as "boys" and sound almost like they're having
fun during this - but they aren't the ones that came up with war- they're
just the players in the game. It's sorta like if you read the poem
literally and took it completely sexually- sure the boys are the ones that
we would call unrefined- but the whole act of sex and the girls themeselves
are just as unrefined. In the end- should one really call just the boys
unrefined. If you take out that literally statement the poem makes dumb
girls sound like tools/whores and wars sound like a mindless/aimless game.

Comment 8 of 101, added on August 12th, 2005 at 1:18 AM.

Channon has reminded me of the idea I had when reading all 50 comments on
the "I carry your heart" poem. That's my favorite of Mr. ee's poems. In
those 50 comments it is clear to me that the poems stimulate meaning from
the reader's life. ie, I don't think it's about pregnancy, stalking, etc
but those are not in my life. I believe the message is in the tremendous
rush of emotion that hits me as I complete the poem.
In this present poem I think it means what he says, litetally. why not
as (as he scratches his nuts). :)

Roy from United States
Comment 7 of 101, added on July 8th, 2005 at 7:05 AM.

to all,
i don't wish to seem like a dimwit after reading all of your comments,
but i think that too often everyone is so-o-o into what the poet was really
talking about that they forget to just enjoy what the poet thinking. like
i said maybe i'm a dullard but i just like cummings poetry because it's
good and i don't always know what he is talking about.

Channon from United States
Comment 6 of 101, added on March 14th, 2005 at 9:52 PM.

While I am intrigued by the clarity Larry has brought to many of the
allusions to war for me, I can't help but think that this poem is more than
that. Although inspired by war, and references made for the purpose of
keeping the rhyme scheme, I have to say that this poem has a much mroe
universal truth behind it. The entire poem speaks of boys (though their
gender is unimportant), and how base they are. How they aren't (obviously)
aren't refined, how primitive they are. The last line, "they shake the
mountains when they dance", is complete juxtaposition to the tone of the
entire poem. It goes from a sort of comical, yet slightly disgusted,
review to reverential awe. I think the main idea that e.e.cummings is try
to convey is that when you really want to get something done, when you
really want to make a difference, you might have to go back to your roots,
regress a little, take a little bit of soceity out of yourself and fill
that whole with instincts.

Blake from United States
Comment 5 of 101, added on January 19th, 2005 at 10:00 AM.

thank you Larry, your view on this poem was incredibly enlightening.

Shana from United States
Comment 4 of 101, added on January 8th, 2005 at 6:53 AM.

Dear all,

I am 51 and first became aware of this poem when I bought the Complete
Poems of ee cummings. It was included among all the other expected poems
with no fanfare. It was separated only by the fact that it was not
printed. It was a page that had the poem written in the poet's own

Thank you, Larry for your illuminating comments. I had never thought of ee
cummings in terms of the WAR, but of course sex makes a wonderful metaphor
for violence. I've emailed your thoughts, and shall think more before I
write again.

All the best,


Irene from United States
Comment 3 of 101, added on December 15th, 2004 at 12:46 PM.

Larry, I'm looking at your comment and I'm quite intrigued. At first, I
thought that this poem was rather a social commentary on those who have
been brought up without any sort of moral following, but your perception of
the poem is a strong one. Very interesting...

Doug from United States
Comment 2 of 101, added on December 8th, 2004 at 6:35 PM.

To Trey - you mean, wish you would have!

I love e.e. cummings. Poetry can be cool. One of the things that I think
makes e.e. cummings poems great is that one the hand they are instantly
'understandable' when read literally. Then you read them over and over and
wonder, what might he really have been writing about?

the boys i mean are not refined is a perfect example of this. Taken
literally, it reads as some clarification on the kind of boys he is talking
about. Did e.e. cummings enjoy this as a joke, that most people would read
his poetry and take it literally?

Read it again and think about it. e.e. cummings was a volunteer ambulance
driver in the war.

the boys i mean are not refined (well as common soldiers, they probably
weren't well educated)
they go with girls who buck and bite (these soldiers were loading and
firing canons)
they do not give a fuck for luck (night and day in battle and you wouldn't
give a fuck either)
they hump them thirteen times a night (how many times they fired - didn't
care if it was 13, luck be damned - now you really didn't think these boys
could fuck a girl thirteen times did you???)

One hangs a hat upon her tit (on the canon somewhere, like a grease nipple
One carves a cross on her behind (soldiers are known for drawing pictures
or writing graffiti on their weapons)

and on and on. Now isn't it obvious that this poem is really about the
soldier boys that e.e. cummings met. Of course as a poet, he would be
moved to write a tribute to them! That many people would read the poem
literally as about boys fucking girls, well, that is just the magic of e.e.
cummings and I wonder if he got a chuckle out of that.

Larry from Canada

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Information about the boys i mean are not refined

Poet: e.e. cummings
Poem: the boys i mean are not refined
Added: Jan 31 2004
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