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.