Compare the poems "in Just" and "Incident" according to content, imagery, format, tone, and meaning. What do you make of them? What kinds of things can happen to kids to change their lives forever? In both poems, the poet uses form (line structure, rhyme scheme or lack thereof) to capture the essence of childhood. How? In both poems, something is menacing the kids, waiting for its moment to intrude. What? What do both poems mean? How is their meaning alike? How is it different?

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"Incident" and "[in Just-]" paint very different pictures of youth. While both speak about the experiences of young people, E.E. Cummings's poem is innocent and breathless, while Cullen's poem is sad and regretful.

E.E. Cummings's poem is marked by unusual spacing between words in lines such as "whistles far and wee." This format is meant to replicate the wide-open, hopeful quality of the spring and the call of the balloon man to the children in the poem. At times, the words run together—for example, in the phrase "eddieandbill." The names are pushed together to show the breathlessness of children frolicking in spring and running towards the balloon man. The unusual, open format of the stanzas shows the freedom of the children Cummings writes about. The poem also does not rhyme, showing its deviation from traditional poetry. The imagery in the poem is about the sounds the balloon man makes when he whistles for the children. The tone of the poem is playful, as the children experience the surprise arrival of the balloon man.

"Incident" by Cullen is far more traditional in its structure. It features four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines rhyme, and the words are not placed in untraditional patterns. The stanzas end in punctuated sentences, showing the way in which the narrator has less freedom and choice than other children. In this poem, a first-person narrator recalls the image of seeing a white child in Baltimore who stuck out his tongue and referred to the narrator, who was then 8, as a "nigger." Unlike the poem by Cummings, the tone in this poem is dark and sad. This poem is about the unexpected racial insult that a black child receives from a white child. It is about the disillusionment of youth, rather than about its innocence and promise. Incidents like these, in which people reveal their prejudices and hate, can forever change a child's life from innocent and happy to sad and disillusioned.

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