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

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Comment 13 of 333, added on April 27th, 2006 at 5:32 PM.

I'm doing a report on this poem for a literature class which I really don't
care to write but...here's what I've recieved from the poem. I think it's
broader than JUST war. I think it expands in to the risks of what children
of his generation thought of as despicable. E.E. Cummings grew up a rich
child, played with other children who became famous and had parents who
were wealthy. He often met other kids who weren't as fortunate in the
backgrounds like him, the slum children. He grew up quite innocently
really, it was probably a culture shock when he met these types of children
and had spurts of arguments; and name calling with them. (Source: Dreams in
the Mirror, A Biography of E.E. Cummings Richard S. Kennedy)

Can someone tell me when this poem was written?



(not given) from United States
Comment 12 of 333, added on November 18th, 2005 at 5:22 AM.

I was a junior in high school when my English teacher pointed out something
that has stuck with me. She simply asked me how I knew what the author
intended.

Poetry is, inherently, abstract, far more so than prose. Think of a poem
you encountered years ago and then think of how it's meaning has changed
since you have changed. This is part of the beauty of poetry. Not only is
the meaning completely dependent on the reader but, also, at the state of
mind of the reader. Further more, the more we attempt to assign meaning to
it the more we colour or view.

And this poem... The possibilities for interpretations are, quite nearly,
endless. Is it an insult on men? Perhaps, but maybe only on those who've
failed to mature enough not to be boys. Either way the women (and is that
"women" or, simply, "girls?") seem equally disparaged.

As to war: I advise caution here. It's quite easy to compare sex and/or
relationships (platonic, sexual; same gender, opposite gender; heck,
parent/child, siblings, friends, lovers, etc...) to war. Even more so when
any vague phallic reference can be made to weapons. We don't even need to
get into women as the conquered. Of course these concepts can be read into
any one line of this poem but how can you know that was the author's
intent?

In "modern" terms (I use the quotes because Cummings' is modern poetry))
it's easy enough to take this poem at face value. So many "boys" seem to go
with "girls" who care nothing for art and wit, much the same as they, and
both spend their efforts on the superficial and blatantly sexual.

War, I think, is an interpretation of this poem that allows both genders to
not search inward and, instead, puts the onus on the big, bad society. Even
if it was, actually, intended as a commentary on war what does that say of
the obvious parallels to the relative relationships between boys and girls,
men and women, and the individuals (you and I) involved? The mere
possibility that such everyday relationships can be used as an anecdote for
war should give us all pause to consider those relationships and our roles
in them. Then, I'd think, commentary on war or not, the face value of the
words is every bit as relevant.

Julia from United States
Comment 11 of 333, 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 333, 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 333, 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.

Court
Comment 8 of 333, 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 333, 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 333, 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 333, 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 333, 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
handwriting.

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

Irene from United States

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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
Viewed: 2986 times
Poem of the Day: Mar 16 2015


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