Sunday, August 3, 2014

poetry in lower case


when e.e.cummings arrived on the poetry scene he gifted us with poems that were written with few upper case letters and very little punctuation. we were in awe of his originality:



"there are so many tictoc
clocks everywhere telling people
what toctic time it is for
tictic instance five toc minutes toc
past six tic

Spring is not regulated and does
not get out of order nor do
its hands a little jerking move
over numbers slowly

   we do not
wind it up it has no weights
springs wheels inside of
its slender self no indeed dear
nothing of the kind.

(So,when kiss Spring comes
we’ll kiss each kiss other on kiss the kiss
lips because tic clocks toc don’t make
a toctic difference
to kisskiss you and to 
kiss me)" 
             e. e. cummings


and though Edward Estlin Cummings is no longer with us, his poems remain an enigma. it dawned on me the other day, as i wrote one of my own poems, how cummings' legacy of lower case lettered poetry has grown in modern day.

in the early centuries, when most if not all poems, were written in heavily structured form, all sentences and proper names were capitalized and all complete sentences ended in a period. thoughts were stretched out and explained. verse after verse told a story from beginning to end and nothing was abbreviated. today it seems things are a bit different

with most poems being written in free verse there is less attention paid to "telling it all" and many poets express big thoughts in brief verses. look at forms like haiku and tanka which can explain intense emotional and philosophical ideas in three for five lines using no punctuation, no articles or conjunctions and few if any adjectives

the flow of lines down the page draw the reader in a smooth expansion of thought, never needing to worry about end stops or pauses, as the enjambed lines flow down the page the reader is carried along as if on a softly flowing stream, adrift on a raft of imagery and emotion

but i want to point out that in no way is poetry a lowercase form of writing, submissive and subordinate to thriller novels, chick lit, or flash fiction. poetry feeds the soul, at least it feeds mine, and i will continue writing it--with a combination of lower and upper case letters as needed and a limited but appropriate amount of punctuation

as i write and order poems for a new collection i am weeding out those that don't sing to me and creating new ones to fill in the gaps. here's a sample poem from the upcoming collection "Ripe Peaches"

STORIES

Threads of imagination
become real
in the gossamer breath
of an unfound voice.

In this dawn
blue as an endless river
I weave unlived stories
in strands of silver truth.