e.e.cummings is one of my all time favorite poets, but he is also one of the most challenging to read.

I would love to hear your interpretation of this poem and see if you think it relates to the post I put up yesterday!
Have fun!
Can’t wait to read what you think he is saying!
xoxo
allison

so I challenge you!
E.E.Cummings is one of my all time favorite poets, but he is also one of the most challenging to read.
I would love to hear your interpretation of this poem and see if you think it relates to the post I put up yesterday!
Have fun!
Can’t wait to read what you think he is saying!
xoxo
allison

voices to voices,lip to lip
i swear(to noone everyone)constitutes
undying;or whatever is this and that peal confutes…
to exist being a familiar form of sleep

what’s beyong logic happens beneath will;
nor can these moment be translated:i say
that even after April
by God there is no excuse for May

—bring forth your flowers and machinery: sculpture and prose
flowers guess and miss
machinery is the more accurate, yes
it delivers the goods,Heaven knows

(yet are we mindful,though not as yet awake,
of ourselves which shout and cling,being
for a little while which easily break
in spite of the best overseeing)

i mean that the blond absence of any program
except last and always and first to live
makes unimportant what i and you believe;
not for philosophy does this rose give a damn…

bring on your fireworks,which are a mixed
splendor of piston and of pistil;very well
provided an instant may be fixed
so that it will not rub,like any other pastel.

(While you and i have lips and voices which
are for kissing and to sing with
who cares if some oneeyed son of a bitch
invents an instrument to measure Spring with?

each dream nascitur,is not made…)
why then to Hell with that:the other;this,
since the thing perhaps is
to eat flowers and not be afraid.

–e.e. cummings

Add yours Comments – 32

  • taylor nikole

    on September 13, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    oh boy…
    i read it like 3 times… slowly 🙂
    and yes it was beautiful, but that doesn’t mean so easy to interpret.

    Heres what i think (so just taking a shot here yikes):
    to me, cummings seems like he has a very broad, beautiful…. view or outlook on life. Even though he questions he thinks that we should just accept the way things go… becuase it is, in reality life is life? (ughh im losing it here)
    “not for philosophy does this rose give a damn…”
    It seems to me that hes saying there can’t be a justification for everything… (going back to my sentence before)
    for that we should just live life and do what we do or what we want to do without the fear or questioning or how or why it ‘life’ works.

    hahah its really scattered…
    but hey i gave it a shot 🙂

  • taylor nikole

    on September 13, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    “becuase it is, in reality life is life?”

    is supposed to be
    because, in reality life is life?

    and yes i can speak and write proper english

  • Lori Bennett

    on September 13, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    i like e.e. cummings but am unfamiliar w/ this particular poem. to make an educated guess i would assume he was referring to one’s own insight. Not to care of other people’s opinion when it comes to what u stand for and believe. We each have “voices” and we need not worry about anyone else’s views on what/how we see things ourselves. i also like taylor’s interpretation and it too makes some sense in how the poem reads.
    allison-what is ur interpretation of this poem? maybe u can help taylor and i understand more clearly what cummings was saying. i’m curious to know if one of us or both of us were close or if we were way off. u can mention it in the next blog. great poem by the way!

  • Puffy

    on September 13, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    I think if Mr Cumming’s had been exposed to jennygirl’s wisdom he would have written “the thing perhaps is to eat ICE CREAM and not to be afraid.”

    My interpretation – it’s about organic experience vs constructed observation. The beautiful things in life, like kissing, singing, nature and art, do not need to be categorised. We try to scientifically analyse and understand the world but it’s too great for something as small as a human to quantify. People need to let go of some of their reliance on permanence and logic, and instead embrace a new experience without fear.

    ……..

    Then again, I always sucked at literary analysis.

  • Lou

    on September 13, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Sounds like him saying that technology overstepping nature’s boundaries is a bad thing and that some people celebrate it anyway.

    here’s my response to what I got out of it.
    They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. people will like whatever benefits them. so then I ask myself “when do the ends justify the means?” (if ever)
    There are always possibilities. always alternatives. just because something is not going well, doesn’t mean that it never will. people get so caught up in complaining about this and that, they forget about the alternative and how badly it would be compared to what he she or they already have.

    Nature is beautiful. no Question. I live in a beautiful state. forests, lakes, rolling hills, on and on. and yet, technology is what has made us so much more than primates. fire to the wheel to the plow, etc. up to everything we all take for granted today. what would happen if we suddenly had no technology? would we be able to rebuild it? would we be reduced to tens of thousands of warring tribes?
    we are becoming more and more aware of how to coexist with nature, no doubt about it. some say “too little too late.” fine. so now what? do we all somehow die off from whatever dozens of things or do we fix everything and improve all we’ve currently got?
    personally, I’d rather go with the second. “Oh noes, we’re all going to get ded!” *rolls eyes* we’re intelligent enough now to take care of things. learn from mistakes.

    how about the song “Tarkus” by ELP? I VERY much recommend a read. 🙂

  • Brittany

    on September 13, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    Hey Allison, I love reading between the lines, but this poem is very hard to do so. I understood that our lives our moving on and that we should enjoy every part of it. Also that we should concentrate on what’s in front of us. Why who we are, why here, why now? Let your inner beauty come out. Embrace yourself and take risks. That’s what I understood of it. I hope I’m somewhat right about some of it. Very beautiful poem! It’s like reading Shakespeare for me. It’s hard to understand what is being said and sometimes I don’t get what he’s saying but our English teacher is the decoder of Shakespeare’s words. He tells us what every sentence of the book means in words that we can understand and relate too. It’s incredible. Then it makes sense and then you get the: “Oh….that I could have guessed,” thought in your mind. It all connects in the end! I enjoy learning of how others interpretate this. I’ll come back tommorow to check on the comments! Well goodnight Allison, thank you for sharing with us, it means alot to me! I understand and feel closer to you every post! Keep up the great work!
    P.S. I’m so asking for Smallville Season 7 for Christmas!
    Much love and support!
    Britt XOXO

  • Darwin

    on September 13, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    Okay…so e.e.cummings is talking about attitudes…

    …contrasting…

    …”mechanical”…

    …which I take to be cold emotionless approach…lack of appreciation…which he also groups with philosophical analyisis
    and even thinking about how spring makes you feel (in the mechanism that is your brain)…

    …and basically…according to him all that is not good…

    And this is contrasted with kissing and singing and eating…which I take to be …devouring…with one’s senses.

    Living in the moment…do not think about it.

    BUT…of course in order to write THIS poem…e.e.cummings had to reflect and analyse in the mechanism that is HIS brain…thus the conceit is a TAD hypocritical…

    AND he is asking us to puzzle about it’s meaning in THIS puzzling poem…which is ALSO causing US to reflect and analyse in the mechanism that is our brains.

    So the TRUTH is…even though e.e.cummings is campaining for “DON’T THINK just FEEL the SENSATION of being in the moment…

    He is actually showing that it never really happens.

    And to TRULY APPRECIATE one has to think.

  • Darwin

    on September 13, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    AND…

    I am going to eat some ice cream now.

    *smiles*

    (jennygirl is wise.)

  • taylor nikole

    on September 13, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    Lori:
    “i also like taylor’s interpretation and it too makes some sense in how the poem reads.
    allison-what is ur interpretation of this poem? maybe u can help taylor and i understand more clearly what cummings was saying. i’m curious to know if one of us or both of us were close or if we were way off.”

    yay im glad i made any sense at all… when i was writing it, i was trying not to break down every bit, but look at a more general idea… see if they connected somehow…
    but i agree with you!
    Allison what do you think?
    are Lori and I even close?

  • taylor nikole

    on September 13, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    “I am going to eat some ice cream now.”

    I have no more room in my tummy for such things 🙁
    and yes she is

  • taylor nikole

    on September 13, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    For some reason…
    I see icecream being a major topic and or answer….
    that will be used often to answer allisons blogs and questions in the future…

  • Robin Hebert

    on September 13, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    Hi Allison. How’s it going up there in Vancouver land? We hope to visit sometime….only being 150 miles away…LOL. I love markets, so I wanna see Granville. Anyway, back to the subject……I have liked e.e. cummings too….I like how he doesnt capitalize things. This poem is a bit hard to read, yet when you do read between the lines, its eye opening. I like the part about the rose. How true that is, the rose doesnt care what you think of it, or what concept you have of it, it just is.
    Of course, our peanut brains cannot grasp the immensity of creation. Talk about peanut brain, I heard this story once about George Washington Carver who was known to find all the uses of the peanut….one time he prayed to God to know the secrets of the universe. He believed God told him: “your peanut brain cannot handle it”. Well, being a smarty pants, he retorted, well then, tell me the secret of the peanut, and by golly, he invented over 300 uses for the dang thing! LOL. Robin

  • The Friday Philosopher

    on September 14, 2008 at 3:11 am

    This is the first Cummings poem I have ever read; I knew they were difficult to translate so decided to stay away. I have seen this style of writing before though, which brings me to my point…

    Just say NO to drugs!

    So if I were to try and interpret this poem, I would say that he is talking about art in its many forms.

    “—bring forth your flowers and machinery: sculpture and prose”

    I think that perhaps, “The Flowers” are the creative aspects of the human race. Each one is different from another in many ways yet each individual flower is beautiful in its own way.

    “not for philosophy does this rose give a damn…”

    I believe he is trying to point out that for him; there is no purpose in philosophy or perhaps the questions behind life. He already knows what is fulfilling in his life,

    “bring on your fireworks, which are a mixed
    splendor of piston and of pistil; very well
    provided an instant may be fixed
    so that it will not rub, like any other pastel.”

    I believe that he is saying that everybody has the potential to produce wonderful art, bring on your fireworks, or release the artist within. To show the world a vast array of unique creativity. To fill the world with a beauty that is free for all to consume.

    “the thing perhaps is
    to eat flowers and not be afraid.”

    Ultimately I think he’s talking about the freedom of expression. Well, that’s what I think he is saying anyway.

    Friday 🙂

  • Gnome

    on September 14, 2008 at 4:23 am

    Yeah………

    Definitively he is saying that is better stick with the ice cream….

    The answers are out there and doesn’t mean, necessarily, that they are specifically for your questions. It’s like he says: “…makes unimportant what i and you believe…”.
    So bring up your ice cream pot, enjoy your life, and, maybe, you will start to make the question that suits the answer…

  • paul

    on September 14, 2008 at 4:54 am

    “Nor can these moments be translated” is a powerful statement against interpretation; yet the poem (like any poem) must be interpreted, if the reader is to make sense of it. I think e.e. cummings is aware of the irony here, and is cluing us in to the irony of it.

    This poem is richly ambiguous, with a delightful machinery metaphor running throughout (piston/pistil). The “machinery” also refers to art, art as a kind of machinery, a manufactured thing (piston/pistil/pastel).

    This poem is a free flow of ideas, celebrating the rich ambiguity of language. It is as overflowing with ideas and is short on conclusions. Not surprising, since machinery is more accurate, but the rose does not give a damn for philosophy. Personally, I think it’s a mistake to try to pin down any one meaning to this poem; Cummings is tossing out ideas, some of them contradictory. A line by line analysis kind of misses the point, being didactic and ugly, which is the polar opposite of what this poem is.

    Still, a line by line analysis might be worth trying. Maybe I’ll try posting it in the forum, when I have more time…

  • Gaia

    on September 14, 2008 at 5:21 am

    Hi Ally! I’m back from a long trip! I missed you. Anyway great poem! To me he wants to show what the real love is!

  • Steve

    on September 14, 2008 at 7:22 am

    Heh. He was thinking:

    maaaaan
    those mushrooms didn’t taste very good
    now i flowers see and want to taste
    and colors too
    rainbows
    stars
    moon clovers
    synapses firing in offsetting patterns
    lizard brain taking over
    dude
    pass the chips

  • Ralph

    on September 14, 2008 at 7:48 am

    I view it as a struggle between nature/creativity and mechanical/technological. Just because one may make things more precise or easier does not necessarily mean it is better. as for if it connects with yesterdays question; i don’t know i believe i took a different meaning from this than others will.

  • Melissa

    on September 14, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Hi Allison! ahhhh you got me with this poem, really. But as far as I understand….the poem means: Live the best and worst of life. But more importante live it with beauty,amazed!
    Bye,Melissa.

  • Maria

    on September 14, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Wow… This poem is intense!! I had to read like three times to fully get it! But in the end the message was pretty clear.

    Live life fully and don’t question it so much. My favorite line had to be:

    “While you and I have lips for kissing and to sing with. Who cares if oneeyed son of a bitch invented an instrument to measure spring with.”

    That was really what kind of stood out for me! I mean it’s like he says we are alive, we have life why are you worrying so much about how you are here? I mean, it was said so clearly and bluntly. ( well, not exactly so clear like I said had to read it three times.) It’s like just try to experience life to its fullest!

    Xoxo

    Maria

  • Maria

    on September 14, 2008 at 11:11 am

    B.t.w friday philosopher that was one HELL of a post and I must say one heck of a good one. With your post only i TOTALLY get the poem!

  • Sarah

    on September 14, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    First of all, I’m pretty sure about half of this poem just went right over my head, but I’ll try to comment on what I somewhat got.

    First of all, the beginning of the second stanza really caught my eye.

    “what’s beyond logic happens beneath will;”

    I had to really break it down to attempt to understand what it was trying to say. There’s logic, which is when I try to understand something by what makes logical sense. And then there’s will; when I just do something because I want to. We know why we do something logically… we’ve thought it through. Who knows why we do something because we just get that gut feeling? The “beneath will” is what I interpreted to be that reason why we do things out of instinct. The “beneath will” is what’s beyond logic.

    I have no clue if I ended up making any sense, but it was very fun to think about that one little sentence. 😛

    Then, what many people seem to be commenting on–“not for philosophy does this rose give a damn…” That, thankfully, is one of the more obvious lines in the poem. If we think about what the rose means, the rose could care less.

    The stanza after also gives a very interesting insight as well.

    “bring on your fireworks,which are a mixed
    splendor of piston and of pistil;very well
    provided an instant may be fixed
    so that it will not rub,like any other pastel.”

    So if these inanimate things could care less what we think, why think about them? Let’s just watch these fireworks and enjoy the prettiness that comes from them. Sure, the color from real pastels leaves a mark and rubs on paper so you can have something that will last longer, but the colors are still just as pretty–what’s the difference?

    Even though the things we are thinking about don’t really care what we think, WE are the ones that get the lasting impression. WE are hurting ourselves if we don’t use the brains that we have.

    Then it ends with the “to eat flower and not to be afraid.” We shouldn’t be afraid what the flower thinks of our philosophy–we should just eat it anyway. EAT IT! 😀

    So, to relate it to your other entry, Allison, a dead end shouldn’t be a reason for you to stop thinking. YOU still gain insight from what you think about.

  • jennygirl

    on September 14, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    I think it means he lives in a snowy place, with crappy May weather, making it impossible to TRULY enjoy ones ice cream.

    Poor thing.

  • jennygirl

    on September 14, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    I also think maybe he works for the department of education…attempting so hard to make things more difficult than they need to be.

  • Darwin

    on September 14, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    *laughing*
    *a lot*

    One CAN actually ENJOY ice cream in the month of May in such a place!

    It takes quite a bit of character though!

    And I QUITE enjoy the department of education theory! I believe it has merit!
    Perhaps something e.e.cumings has omitted from his resume?

    It would explain a lot.

  • Jendi

    on September 14, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    I don’t have long, an am usually a Edgar Allan Poe kind kid, however…. I like this, I like that over the last few hours I have read it numerous times and taken something different out of it each time…

    This leads me to think a couple of things….this was cummings goal maybe, this poem is so full of life, art, views philosphy and like so many great poems each person that reads it will find different symbolisims and theories. Personally I think Cummings is speaking of life, all aspects of life from birth and death, perception of beauty and rubbish, perceptions of our beings and dimensions….It challenges the black and white…..

    to sum it up simply this poem is about the grey areas in life, physically, mentally, perceptionally, visually…. the great thing about poetry; which is if you ask me a fantastic form of art. No two people will read this poem and have the same thoughts and feelings, the same comparisions or emotions….and that to me is my perception of this poem and really also my perception of poetry as an art form!!

    BYE:)

  • paul

    on September 21, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    So here goes my interpretation of the poem:

    “voices to voices,lip to lip
    i swear(to noone everyone)constitutes
    undying;or whatever is this and that peal confutes…
    to exist being a familiar form of sleep”

    Speaking (and/or kissing; see stanza 7 below) constitutes life, life as distinguished from mere existing.

    “what’s beyong logic happens beneath will;
    nor can these moment be translated:i say
    that even after April
    by God there is no excuse for May”

    What is beyond logic cannot be willed; there is something outside of these rational processes, something that cannot be put into words. The narrator is letting us know that he he intends to be obstinate and obtuse if it so pleases him, even to refusing the progression of the seasons. A note of blasphemy is introduced, expanding on the defiance that was introduced in the second line of the poem (stanza 1, above). This may also be an iconoclastic reference to T.S. Eliot’s famous line, “April is the cruelest month.”

    “—bring forth your flowers and machinery: sculpture and prose
    flowers guess and miss
    machinery is the more accurate, yes
    it delivers the goods,Heaven knows”

    After telling us what we can’t do or shouldn’t attempt, we now get the positive: the arts. A haphazard approach is okay, it is fine to guess and miss with your “prose flowers”. I don’t think machinery and the arts are being opposed here, I think the arts (at least some of them, the “hard arts” like sculpture) are a kind of machinery. Sculpture “delivers the goods” because it creates a tangible thing. There is a difference between ephemeral art and permanent art, between “accurate” art and shot-in-the-dark art (I assume Cummings would include his poem in the latter category!)

    “(yet are we mindful,though not as yet awake,
    of ourselves which shout and cling,being
    for a little while which easily break
    in spite of the best overseeing)”

    Rebirth, of the spiritual/artistic side. Also a reminder of our vulnerability. This stanza neatly returns to the machine metaphor (we are spoken of as easily “broken”), which further indicates to me that “machinery” is not meant in a negative sense in this poem.

    “i mean that the blond absence of any program
    except last and always and first to live
    makes unimportant what i and you believe;
    not for philosophy does this rose give a damn…”

    Why blond?! Perhaps in the sense of innocence, of childhood (hair often darkens with age). To live, to live! To live is what’s fundamental, rendering both beliefs and reason (philosophy) secondary.

    “bring on your fireworks,which are a mixed
    splendor of piston and of pistil;very well
    provided an instant may be fixed
    so that it will not rub,like any other pastel.”

    Here again, the machine metaphor (piston) and the nature metaphor (pistil, flower) are combined and not opposed. Again also, the ephemeral and the permanent arts are contrasted (but not quite opposed). Pastel drawings are fragile and impermanent, they will rub if not coated with fixative. Fireworks (the literal kind) are the most ephemeral art work of all, gone in a flash. They are a “mixed splendor” of the artistic and the mechanical, being basically an expression of the artillerlyman’s art. “Fireworks” as meant here can also be seen in the figurative sense. The overriding injunction is to fix your creative moment, so that it will endure.

    “(While you and i have lips and voices which
    are for kissing and to sing with
    who cares if some oneeyed son of a bitch
    invents an instrument to measure Spring with?”

    This seems plain enough. But why one-eyed? Perhaps as in partially blind– the S.O.B sees only one half of the picture.

    “each dream nascitur,is not made…)
    why then to Hell with that:the other;this,
    since the thing perhaps is
    to eat flowers and not be afraid.”

    “Nascitur” is Latin, meaning to be born; this is a return to the rebirth idea of stanza 4. Measuring Spring picks up the April/May progression from stanza 2. This poem (despite appearances!) actually coheres very well, returning to the same images and ideas. I think it’s even possible to sort of sum up this poem in one sentence: “Make art, and be not afraid.”

  • TechnoPoet

    on October 14, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    To me this poem speaks about finding your inner passion and bringing it to the world… oddly I had not read this poem before… but I have written a similar poem without realizing it… I shall share it with u all
    “The Poet”
    internal reflections
    mental preperations
    all thrown aside
    speak your mind
    create with your gift
    sort through your chaos
    the poet knows
    the poet listens
    hear those words
    formulate on the page
    cringe, feel, spark, explosion
    pour your soul into words
    speak from your fingertips
    ballpoint or blood
    make your choice and learn
    anything graceful,painful, or planned
    stroke your mind with your heart
    -TechnoPoet feb/98

  • TechnoPoet

    on October 14, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    dang— I’d like to add that i feel the difference between my poem and his is that he has found the one thing that i can’t seem to get past… that worrying about what other people think of your inner beauty should be set aside… that you should be your authentic self at all times and not worry about what others will think of you… (I am terrible at this, even though I know I should be my authentic self more).
    his lines :
    While you and i have lips and voices which
    are for kissing and to sing with
    who cares if some oneeyed son of a bitch
    invents an instrument to measure Spring with?
    tells us that we should not worry about what others have or are thinking/doing, that we should eat the flowers (do our own thing) anyways… perhaps someday I will stop worrying about the one-eyed son of a bitch stopping me from my dreams…

  • Cayce

    on October 26, 2008 at 5:20 am

    I think he was using May as to describe Allison

  • Gavin

    on February 23, 2009 at 10:08 am

    it describes how love is a grey area, that it isn’t simply black and white. Unlike e.g. quote( machinery is the more accurate), even if you can plan all the events in your life without fault. Your love for some one can’t be purely because love defies logic. In the end no matter how scary it may seem why deprive yourself of something so beautiful and natural.

  • Renee

    on May 5, 2009 at 2:05 am

    He was born around the same year as my grandfather. Imagine the changes he saw as a young child, during the Industrial Revolution. What goes through your thoughts? Will machines replace the value of people? It must have been both exciting and fearful at the same time. I think those thoughts were on his mind when he wrote the poem.