Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by e.e. cummings better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.
One is the loneliest number.
Listen Up! What is all the fuss? This is what’s wrong with the world today! I think the poem was is for all to enjoy, not to cause a fight! Again this is what’s wrong with the world today we always have to fight over everything learn to “AGREE TO DISAGREE” Hope someone learned something today!
Never so loudly has a leaf fallen.
This is a response to rr. In all seriousness, thank you for your interpretation of the poem. It is refreshing to find such a well-thought out and backed-up interpretation. I am also glad that you recognize that it is simply your interpretation and nothing more, as of course you know that none of us are E. E. Cummings and thus that none of us can, according to you, profess that we have the “correct” interpretation. However, I am intrigued by the fact that you feel the need to qualify your interpretation by telling us that you have a Harvard education, as if it makes your interpretation more valid than others’. I think, and this is simply an opinion, albeit one shared by many critics of art, that the only thing that makes one interpretation more valid than another is how well it is backed up by the text. This does, in fact, as I have said, make yours an extremely good interpretation, but has nothing to do with Harvard. Also, it surprises me that someone as educated as yourself (though perhaps the tinge of self-centeredness should have tipped me off) would say “That is much of what cummings is trying to say” as if you have any idea what Cummings intended. In fact, your comment that the only meaning of a poem is what the author intended renders all of what we say useless. Sure, your interpretation is what Cummings might have intended to say, but he also might have intended the poem as a simple statement that a leaf is falling and looks lonely, nothing more. We, the audience, can never know as we are not E. E. Cummings. If meaning stems solely from the author, there is no use in attempting to interpret a poem. As I have said, I think that a poem’s meaning should be based on what the audience can back up using the poem itself, not on what we think an author may or may not have meant.
In ending, two things. First, you should know, before styling your name after an author, that Cummings himself wrote his name with capital letters and correct punctuation. Second, I dearly hope that both of your comments were meant not as condescension but as humor. I feel that this is a reasonable hope, as you seem to have jokingly copied Cummings’ name and educational background. Remember, though, that sarcasm is difficult to pick up in text form. You have clearly offended several people and should be careful next time to make your jokes more apparent. Sarcasm is funnier if the reader can tell that it’s there. If you truly mean what you say, I am sorry. I am sure you will interpret that as an apology for something I have done or said. Feel free to do so, but know that, as I am the author, your interpretation will be completely wrong.
Lastly, my own thoughts on the poem. I think the poem is actually correctly written with an l (letter) not a 1 (number). I have a book of collected E. E. Cummings poems which uses the letter l, and I trust it to reprint poetry correctly. It would fit better with the continuity of the poem as well. However, I also think, though it was probably meant as a letter, it was written to echo the number one, since this is repeated throughout the poem. I like the interpretation that the poem symbolizes at some point an ending of “two” or a beginning of “one.” This seems to echo a leaf beginning as a part of a tree (the leaf and the tree being two) and then falling, becoming one, alone, in the air. I also see some hope at the end, as perhaps loneliness (or “I-ness,” which suggests instead a concept and awareness of oneself as separate from the masses) is perhaps not a bad thing. The leaf changes from one leaf among thousands to an object of beauty, floating alone through the air.
I apologize for writing so much. I hope it was, at least in part, useful.
I agree with rr that the poem’s central theme hinges on the juxtaposition of singularity and duplicity. Again, the pairing of letters (particularly the two ls in the middle of the poem), the parentheses, the possible layering of words, and even the number at the beginning of the poem (where there’s a 1, a 2 is sure to follow) all support the unexpected theme of two-ness in this poem. The fact that there are multiple readings of the word (loneliness, 1-liness, oneliness, I-ness) is ironic in that the poem, ostensibly about the notion of singularity, lacks a singular interpretation. The poem, like the individual, is neither as simple nor as lonely as it seems. Furthermore, the individual, like the poem, can only be defined as it relates to others. So, while not every interpretation is equal, interaction with a reader is necessary to the formation of meaning. Additionally, this is a poem about life and death. The leaf is an obvious representation of death, while the words “onliness” and “I-ness” assert the importance of existence (life). In addition, cummings gives the leaf action: It falls. It is on a journey toward death (in other words, life). The author essentially tells us, “an image of death imposes itself on my being,” yet, there is hope in this poem too. Being alone at least involves being, and dying implies having lived.
i would love to read a novel written by e. e. cummings.
You said, “Those of you who think you know it all are particularly annoying to those of us who do.”
I should hope you take this lesson you shared very personally, as I believe it applies to you as much as it does anyone else, if not more. To follow that up, pointing out a minor grammatical mistake in Brian’s “critic” does nothing but point out that you dislike his point of view, and that you will do anything to bring him down a level below you. In fact, if you insist on being so nitpicky, I might point out your misspelling of “critique”. While I believe the importance of grammar is key in helping readers more clearly address your point, it does not invalidate ones argument, especially in on-line discussions where grammar and spelling might not be at the top of one’s priority list. Likewise, if we judged one on simply one’s usage of grammar, than we could call E.E. Cummings an idiot, as many of his poems follow no grammatical plan whatsoever; and almost never does he capitalize beginnings of sentences or finish them with a period.
On the matter of opinions, I feel I would like to add my own in the different, but valid mix. I believe that a reader can interpret each poem in their own way. There is no conventionally ‘wrong’ answer to a poem. However, I believe anyone who interprets a poem in an ‘unconventional’ manner should be prepared to back it up, or explain how it is that they interpreted it the way that they did. If one fails to explain themselves logically, with references from the text itself, then this point of view can be dismissed. However, if one can in fact explain what they personally got out of the poem, even if nobody else agrees with them, then more power to them. This is how poetry should work. Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts as well.
No other leaf ever made so much noise, like rrduffings does, or fell so noiselessly, like ee cummings does.
We studied this poem in English. The poem actually reads “A leaf falls in loneliness.” It symbolizes loneliness as a leaf falling from a tree; it is disconnected, lonely. The pattern that the letters fall in looks like the pattern a leaf would fall in, swaying left and right through the air. e. e. cummings also puts the word “one”, which is part of “loneliness,” and writes the l’s alone, which look like ones. (1(one) looks like l(the letter L)) You have to really think about cumming’s poems to understand their true meaning.
poetry isnt supposed to be interpreted one way or the other. it’s a way of expressing feelings through words; in this case probably a feeling of loneliness. poetry is an art form much like a song, just without music. everybody just take the sticks out of your arses and learn to live with other people’s point of view about ONE POEM.
A Leaf Falls In Loneliness
The information on 1(a should be written: a leaf falls-loneliness or loneliness then what is in the ( ) which is: a leaf falls. The is no “on” in the poem. The visual pattern of the poem would help with the understanding of it. The last leaf to fall from the tree in the fall represents loneliness.
Brian, Brian, Brian. I quote, “These forms of criticism do not give a reader free reign to ‘invent’ their [sic] own interpretation.” The substance of that line is the singular thing about which you and I agree. It needs to be said, however, that it is difficult to put much faith in a critic’s critic who is conspicuously ignorant of grammatical considerations. How does ” a reader” agree with “their”? Try his or her.
Your statement that the “author is not entirely lost” is horrific and revealing. By the way, thank you for the amateur,and amusingly condescending lesson on the various types of criticism. I’m surprised you didn’t pay the usual homage to the Deconstructionist School.
Brian, you are a pseudointellectual. I desperately hope you are not teaching. Cab, you, on the other hand, are unpretentious and clearly intelligent.
Finally, to that moron who thinks I am behaving in a holier than thou manner (and to Brian),I have this to say: Those of you who think you know it all are particularly annoying to those of us who do.
OK… rr’s reading is not wrong. In fact, it is a fine example of one way to read a poem. However, to say that a poem can only mean what the author intended is, in my opinion and the opinion of other academics, a farce. There are several schools of literary criticism. rr obviously falls into the “genetic” category, wherein all that a document is, can only be attributed to authorial intent. This is actually a dated, albeit still mildly popular, academic view. “New criticisim” and “subjectivism”, on the other hand allow for alternate interpretations. These forms of criticism do not give a reader free reign to “invent” their own interpretation, but rather profess that a text is a living thing that will allow for multiple interpretations that do not hinge on the lynchpin of authorial intent. Rather, these forms of criticism explore the text as an autonomous unit. The author is not entirely lost, but the author is only one contributing factor to the “meaning” of a work. These critics focus on language as a vehicle and understand that sometimes an individual can intend to say one thing, but inadvertently touch on another meaning that was unintended. There are many other schools of literary criticism that I will not take the time to list here. But it is important to note that most of us fall mostly into one category, but are influenced by others. Assuming that rr is Harvard educated (and I have no reason to doubt the assertion) his statements are highly irresponsible from an academic point of view.
the way this poem is written is new to me. i have never seen it before but when i read it over it makes alot more sense. the shape of the words describes how ‘a leaf falls on loneliness’…. it doesn’t fall straight down to the ground.. the wind picks it back up and it floats up and down before touching the earth, as do the words.
I have been struggling with translation and teaching translation to 9th graders…I think that what rr states about this poem is sound and NOT elitist. Thank you rr duffings for your imput…
to me…the poem was saying..A leaf falls one in loneliness…when a leaf falls from a tree..it falls straight down..at the bottom before it hits ..its tossed up..just a bit..at the trunk of the tree. Just like the poem..it grabs back up in the words to grab another part of it..before it settles to the ground.
Is it just me or does “rr duffings” think he is better than us?
You are about to receive a fairly thorough analysis. I’m compelled to do this because I’ve read too much drivel on this site. By the way, a poem does not mean what YOU think it means. Some C average, idiot English teacher taught you that. It means what the poet intended it to mean. It is only slightly tempered by what you, the highly questionable reader and loose cannon of epic proportions, brings to the table. Fellow cannons, let us proceed.
Parentheses occur in pairs. The beginning and end of the relationship are graphically suggested by the positioning of the parentheses. It is no accident that 2 letters (a couple) are paired as the leaf falls until the word “one” shockingly appears. It’s over. Notice how the “l” following “one” looks hauntingly like a person standing totally alone.
Why then, is “iness” so large a word when juxtaposed with all the other words in the poem? I’ll offer that “iness” is I-ness. The state of being I ….. the very alone individual.
We have thus progressed from 1/2 parentheses + “a” (one person beginning to combine with another?) to the other 1/2 parentheses + “s” (one person nearing the end, starting to finish? to disengage?) and winding up outside the parentheses of the relationship quite existentially alone ….. returning, as it were, to I-ness.
LOOK at the poem. That is much of what cummings is trying to say. Loneliness is “one-liness.”
I have a Harvard education and entirely too much tIme on my hands. I hope this has amused you.
This poem is very intriguing, though it might be a bit confusing the first time you read it, especially if you haven’t seen a poem with such form beforehand. I love how Cummings went outside the box in the sense of conventional means of writing poetry. The structure of the poem is fascinating and I love how he used the structure to amplify the effects. As many have pointed it out already, the way he’s written the poem actually does correspond to the pattern of a falling leaf. Instead of just reading the words in a straight line, Cummings has provided a visual means of impact as well. As for the interpretation of the first character, I agree that it can be both a number 1 and a letter l. The 1 symbolizes the one leaf, and the l is the first letter of the word “loneliness”.
Truly amazing poem in my books. 🙂