Arguably, the best way to understand and appreciate "my father moved through dooms of love" by E. E. Cummings is to read it and feel it, absorbing the meaning and powerful emotions instinctively. Readers usually have no trouble coming away with the understanding of the strengths of the man described and an unbridled admiration for him.
As part of his uniquely modernist style, Cummings abandons the rules of English syntax and plays with combinations that defy normal interpretation. Throwing normal word order to the wind, he creates phrases that sound like nonsense: "sames of have," "offered immeasurable is," "theys of we." Despite these jarring constructions, with effort, one can decipher sentences where words are being used outside their normal grammatical roles.
This poem was written in honor of Cummings's father, who was a minister and a professor at Harvard. Cummings had a pleasant childhood and a good relationship with both his parents, who supported his writing and other creative efforts. The elder Cummings died when a train collided with his car.
In seventeen quatrains, the poem—an elegy—praises the positive qualities of the poet's deceased father. Although the form echoes traditional verse in its rhythm and meter (iambic tetrameter), it primarily uses near-rhyme rather than rhyme, and, like most of Cummings's poems, it lacks standard capitalization and punctuation. Each stanza consists of two rhymed couplets, although the rhymes are usually slant rhymes (love/give, where/here, which/touch).
Stanza by stanza, the poem gives examples of how the father interacted with people and the qualities he displayed. Stanza 3 speaks of how he encouraged people to "swarm their fates," using an allusion to the first lines of The Canterbury Tales. His father is the "April" that pierced the roots of the dreamers—perhaps his students.
Stanza 4 suggests how patient his father was, while stanza 5 implies his ability to feel deeply: "moved through griefs of joy." Stanza 5 compares him to the North Star, and stanza 6 refers to his hopeful optimism. Stanza 7 powerfully describes how much others appreciated and loved him: "no cripple wouldn't creep one mile uphill to only see him smile." Stanza 8 shows his father was genuine, not succumbing to "the pomp of must and shall." According to stanza 8, he accepted people, whether foolish or wise. He was able to grieve but rose above his sorrow (stanza 10), and he was especially good with children (stanza 11).
The last three stanzas take on a darker, somewhat bitter tone. This signifies the poet's anger and anguish at losing his dear father so unexpectedly. Nevertheless, he ends the poem on a swelling note of tribute: "because my father lived his soul love is the whole and more than all." This paradox, though written in understandable syntax, seems to sum up what Cummings was doing in the poem.
The strong emotions—spurred by so many memories of such a great man—could not be contained by normal speech or syntax. The overflow of words that the jumbled syntax represents is in itself a tribute to a loving and beloved father.