Monday, August 4, 2014

e.e. cummings - Poetry

I've heard of e.e. cummings before, even read some of his work, though I don't know any of his poems specifically.  He is famous for his avant-garde style, especially the lack of capitalization.  This work is called 'Buffalo Bill's'. 

Buffalo Bill's
     who used to
     ride a watersmooth-sillver
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
he was a handsome man
          and what I want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death

I've long been turned off by the avant-garde style and I just figured out why.  The entire style seems to be screaming 'pay attention to how weird I am!'.  It doesn't feel natural or organic.  It seems calculated and tiresome.  (Maybe I would have felt differently at the time these pieces were created though frankly I doubt it.)  The lower case letters and the run on words here are a perfect example.  They seem like more of a showcase of strangeness than as an aid to poetic understanding.
But let me put that aside and focus on the story.  Buffalo Bill was a showman and I take from this poem that during his act he would ride in all smoothly and proceed to kill some pigeons.  He was handsome and suave and at the same time cruel and monstrous.  No good and civilized person could enjoy such a performance.
But Mister Death could.  I don't know if Mister Death is attending the show or if those who enjoy such things are some kind of manifestation of death.  Either way, do they actually enjoy this blend of beauty and violence?  They must, right?  Even though they shouldn't. 
Incidentally, I agree with that point.  I'm the type of guy who rolls his eyes at the 'no animals were harmed in the making of this' style disclaimer, but I'm not happy watching animals be hurt or killed.  I don't find it entertaining in the least.  However, the style of this poem makes me want to mount a defense to the show-goers, though I'm not quite sure why. 
Perhaps, the packaging is so obviously artificial that it's hard for me to take the message seriously.

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