my mind is
a big hunk of irrevocable nothing which touch and taste and smell
and hearing and sight keep hitting and chipping with sharp fatal
tools
in an agony of sensual chisels i perform squirms of chrome and ex
-ecute strides of cobalt
nevertheless i
feel that i cleverly am being altered that i slightly am becoming
something a little different, in fact
myself
Hereupon helpless i utter lilac shrieks and scarlet bellowings.

4 Comments

  1. Ryan says:

    The way that the poem is structured displays the subtleness in our life journey, and how life just seems to tail off in the end. The first few lines are packed with intense wording and are relatively long, but towards the end of the poem, the lines become shorter and quieter. This is very representative of the life cycle of many people. Many people recognize that their lifespan is limited and therefore they should enjoy their youth, so their early stages of life are packed with fun and excitement. Then, as they grow older and have learned from their experiences, they develop a more in depth relationship with themselves. Life starts to slow down, maybe the phrase “less is more” starts to hold more meaning in their lives. For example many elderly people might find enjoyment in the simpler things in life rather than the wild or material. Cummings demonstrates all of this with his use of line length; the lines near the end of the poem become shorter to the point where the last line is only one word.
    Cummings uses the last two lines to make a powerful statement. In the eleventh line, the word “Hereupon” is capitalized. This is the only word in the entire poem that is capitalized and this sentence is the only part of the poem that is actually punctuated. He trying to point out that when we finally find tranquility within ourselves, when we finally know exactly who we are, this is when we are ready to die. To expand upon this would be to also inquire if we will ever fully find tranquility until we are on our death beds. Cummings makes this line different from the rest of the poem with punctuation and capitalization because it ties the whole poem together. Without the last line, the poem is not complete. This last sentence displays the narrator’s realization about his or her life in its entirety in a very calm and collected tone. Without the last line the poem offers little insight and leaves the reader hanging.
    Cummings also uses specific wording throughout the poem in a way that progressively displays the stages of life. Words near the beginning of the poem such as “hitting”, “chipping”, “fatal tools”, “chisels”, “squirms”, and “strides” are all words of excitement and youth. They represent the struggles, accomplishments, and life experiences we go through. While words towards the end of the poem such as “cleverly”, “slightly”, “helpless”, “utter”, and “bellowings” are calmer and of a casual tone as they present a momentous realization within the narrator. These words seem to convey the subtle message that we all age and eventually depart from life, so there is little sense in allowing our age to affect our emotional state in a negative way. Our life experiences are what shape us and this process is continuous throughout life, so therefore we will never fully be able to visualize the final product of who we are until our final moment of life when life experiences are no longer available. Cummings’ poem displays this idea through the way the narrator feels he/she is becoming himself/herself.

  2. John says:

    cummings is confronting the tabula rasa theory of human nature — that we are nothing but what sensory experience shapes us to be …

    so (he tell us) the mind is nothing but a “big hunk of irrevocable nothing” that the five senses carve away at like “sensual chisels.”

    Despite the influence of environment, though, the poet is somehow able to some influence on the process: “i slightly am something different, in fact, myself.”

    While perhaps helpless before the environmental forces that shape us, we still perhaps have the freedom of art — especially of strange and curious beauty like cummings’ poetry. Despite being “helpless,” he utters “lilac shrieks” and “scarlet bellowings.”

    Quite possibly when cummings was writing, it was difficult to challenge the Standard Social Science model — that humans are infinitely malleable, shaped by their social and physical environment. This poem is suggesting that while that may be true, there is realm of imagination — of song — that is perhaps free.

  3. Rose says:

    could someone tell me a little bit more about what exactly this poem is meant to mean?

  4. Amy says:

    This poem is great because it is about the constancey of evolving into ourselves.

    Beautiful.

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