Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The State of "iness"

l(a

le
af
fa
ll
s)
one
l
iness


This poem by ee cummings is a grand introduction to the unconventional poet and to the whims of poetry. cummings rejected punctuation, grammar, and spelling conventions and used these unconventional methods to reach a higher order, a greater meaning, and a pleasant result. cummings is whimsical and "l(a" is just such a poem.

Computer technology is an aide in unraveling this poem for the scholars. Upon first appearance, readers don't know what to make of it. They see a list of letters. A few make words, but overall it is a list. That is the first clue cummings gives us. It is not a traditional way to present letters or words. It is vertical, the shape of a "ONE." This will be important later. What is the traditional way to present letters and words? Horizontally. So with the help of computer technology the scholars can rearrange the letters:

l(aleaffalls)oneliness

All of a sudden the cryptic letters becomes more clear, not totally but somewhat. Within the parentheses, scholars see "a leaf falls," but oftentimes they don't see the other word, they are confused. When they move the parenthetical expression outside to the end or the beginning, they get it.

The poem is a metaphor: "a leaf falls, loneliness" or "loneliness, a leaf falls." We now explore the physical construction.

l(a

le
af
fa
ll
s)
one
l
iness

As I said before, the shape of the poem is like the number "1." Now when cummings wrote this poem, the "l" and the "1" used the same key on the typewriter, the "l."


Exploring each line of the poem becomes a study of "oneness" with the "iness" serving as the base of the poem. Line one, "l(a" provides total "iness" in both number and letter world: the "l" or "1" and the "a" signifying one object, a desk. The two l's on the line "ll" is significant as they are together, like us, but nevertheless alone. the next line, "s)" is interesting as it is the letter we use to signify more than one and yet it stands alone. Also the "s" is curious as it signifies plural in nouns, but in the verb it signifies singularity, the third person singular. The last three lines become obvious.

one
l
iness

Now we explore the poem as a metaphor, loneliness is a leaf falling or to use the simile construction, loneliness is like a leaf falling. Very simple, like all of cummings poetry. Complex on the outside perhaps, like us, and then very simple in the end. Elegant. I think it is appropriate taht we study this poem of "one" on April 1. Computer technology has helped us with analyzing this poem. I often ask the scholars to construct their own poem a la "l(a." They have fun.

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