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What does e. e. cummings poem "next to of course god america i" mean?I have to write a...

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howdy33 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 21, 2010 at 11:17 AM via web

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What does e. e. cummings poem "next to of course god america i" mean?

I have to write a poetry explanation essay on it and i dont understand the essay.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 21, 2010 at 11:43 AM (Answer #1)

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In my opinion, this is a poem that is trying to oppose the idea of patriotism.  Or perhaps I should say it is opposing the idea of blind patriotism.

The author strings together all these patriotic symbols and phrases at the beginning of poem.  By doing this, he is giving the usual way that patriotism is seen -- this enthusiastic love of America and patriotic songs, etc.

But then he stops and changes his message -- he starts to be sarcastic.  He uses ignorant-sounding language (by gorry, etc) and the idea that people who believe that stuff at the begining also think that it is beautiful to be killed for your country.

At the end, the bit about drinking water implies that the speaker has been rushing nervously through his speech to an audience -- maybe he thinks what he's saying about how we should be patriotic is untrue...

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 21, 2010 at 9:11 PM (Answer #2)

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There is a belief that suggests that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. This could serve as an excellent starting point for the discussion in Cummings' work.  The premise of the poem is about what constitutes American identity and the notion of "patriotic pride."  An avowed pacifist, Cummings' himself did not like war and writing in a time when America found itself embroiled in conflicts abroad while enduring a period of relative domestic silence, Cummings seeks to bring out the idea that to love America is to be able to bring a voice of dissent to it.  In contrast to the nationalism and the jingoistic approach (something he directly mentions in line 8), Cummings seeks to bring another side to the fact that American pride, or any sense of national conquest, comes at its own cost or at the cost of others.  While dissent is present in the poem, some might argue that it is only out of a deep love Cummings has for America that he seeks to critique its actions and raise awareness to how far it has gone from its original positions or belief system.

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daynajones | Student, Grade 9 | eNoter

Posted April 29, 2010 at 10:47 AM (Answer #4)

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I am a student in 9th grade also and my teacher broke down the poem to us. first ee cummings in my opinion is a great poet.first in the poem you will notice that there are some famous american songs used in the poem and each song stops at a certain word. the first is pride. the second is light.then you will also notice that the writer say Why talk of

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dreamteacher | High School Teacher | eNoter

Posted January 21, 2010 at 12:32 PM (Answer #5)

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I think there are three different answers to analyze here. First and possibly the most amusing one is that e.e. Cummings needed money when he wrote this poem. He published this in Feline Quarterly (magazine about cats) hence the "lions". in addition, poems about lions were very popular during that time thanks to a Canadian poet. And then it was performed in 1957 by a Broadway actor when he forgot his lines. After that, it became popular and well known. 

The second is undoubtedly the most clever interpretation inthat he is comparing America to a gladiator arena in ancient Rome. In fact, words such as "by gorry, by jingo by gee by gosh by gum" come from Latin roots of the word that roughly means "toy with the opponent" and chants that Romans yelled when they disagreed with the final decision. This is fitting since e.e. cummings was conveying the distress during that time in our history. 

Lastly, this is clearly a poem about hidden rhetorics and lost meaning of liberty. Politicians use this tactic often and e.e. Cummings is casually mocking them while simultaneously confusing the readers to a point of making them think there is a deep meaning behind what is being said when there really isn't. Gullibility of the public is a scary and powerful thing.

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