If "Buffalo Bill's" were put into conventional punctuation and made to look like prose, what elements of poetry would still be there? What would it lose?

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When "Buffalo Bill 's" by E.E. Cummings is changed to prose form, the elements of poetry that have to do with word choice remain the same. However, the poem loses its structure and will be read differently without the implied pauses.

The imagery in the poem remains the same, even when the form is changed. The stallion is still watersmooth-silver. Buffalo Bill is still a blue-eyed boy. 

The tone of the poem remains essentially the same. The speaker idealizes Buffalo Bill and celebrates him, then asks Death whether he likes him too. It's a reminder that everyone—even the glorious and strong—eventually die. That meaning persists no matter how the poem is presented.

The rhythm of the shots Buffalo Bill takes in the poem change when it's transcribed as prose. In the poem, they're written as "onetwothreefourfive," implying that the shots come close together, indicating talent as well as swiftness. With traditional punctuation, it would read "one, two, three, four, five"—and lose the impact the original had.

The poem also loses the poetic pauses that exist because of the line breaks and indents. Caesura refers to a strong pause in a line that determines how it's supposed to be read, and Cummings's poem uses it multiple times. The way it's read becomes different when it's put in paragraph form. The shape of the poem, which can have a meaning for a reader, is also absent.

One of the notable things about Cummings's work is how he often uses shape and language together to create his poetry. When "Buffalo Bill 's" is changed from poem to prose form, the language remains but the shape is absent and takes with it some of the meaning of the poem.

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Buffalo Bill’s defunct, who used to ride a watersmooth silver stallion and break one, two, three, four, five pigeons, just like that. Jesus! He was a handsome man! And what I want to know is, how do you like your blue-eyed boy, Mister Death?

Above is a version of the poem that eliminates E. E. Cummings' unique line structure and punctuation/capitalization idiosyncrasies. The poetic elements still remaining are:

Defunct: an interesting word choice to describe a man's death. It makes the reader consider that the man was more than a man; he was an institution and a business entity and possibly even a movement. The word is unusual and perhaps metaphorical in its use.

Watersmooth: this is a neologism, a word made up by Cummings, that is full of tactile and visual imagery.

Silver stallion: the alliteration and visual imagery are poetic.

Jesus: this is ambiguous. Is the poet using the name as a comparison to Buffalo Bill, as a curse word, or as a prayer?

Handsome man: this phrase contains assonance with the short /a/ sound repeated in both words.

Mister Death: this final question is an apostrophe, a dramatic address to an imaginary character.

Even without Cummings' deliberate layout, this poem retains many poetic devices that make it effective. However, the creative layout, expanding and contracting like a spinning lasso, creates a level of showmanship that further enhances the memory of the great performer being eulogized in the poem.

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