somewhere I have never traveled,gladly beyond

by E. E. Cummings

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Why does Cummings use spare and unconventional punctuation in “somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond”?

In the poem “somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond,” Cummings uses punctuation in an unconventional manner because he tends to experiment with poetic features to make his audience think in different ways. Also, his use of commas suggests an exuberance, while his colons and parentheses add surprise and emphasis.

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E. E. Cummings was a master of breaking all poetic conventions. He was interested in experimenting, in trying new ways of expressing his ideas and conveying his thoughts to his readers. He wanted to shock his readers into paying attention to what he was doing and to make them think. This is one of the reasons Cummings uses unconventional punctuation, capitalization (or lack thereof), and even spacing in his poetry.

The poem “somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond” at first glance appears to be full of mistakes. There are few capital letters (only one actually, the word “Spring”); only commas, colons, and parentheses for punctuation; and missing spaces. Again, Cummings is deliberately being unconventional in his usages because he is experimenting with forms of expression. But there may be other reasons why he makes unusual choices like these.

First, commas generally indicate pauses in a text, yet in this case, the commas are often combined with a missing space, and this forces the reader to push ahead without a pause. The speaker seems to be speaking quickly, hurrying as he expresses his love for the woman he is describing. He wants to say all the words at once because he is feeling so exuberant. Even commas cannot slow him down. Phrases like “skilfully,mysteriously” and “beautifully,suddenly” come out as one word, which actually adds to their meaning, for as they are pronounced together, we think of them as one, and their meanings blend to form a new and complex picture.

Notice, too, that Cummings inserts colons in what seem to be odd places. Colons normally indicate a substantial pause followed either by a piece of information that explains and expands on what has just been said or by a list that qualifies what has just been said. In this poem, neither of those situations apply. In the first stanza, Cummings places a colon after “silence” and then goes on to speak of his beloved's gestures. Later, a colon follows the word “fragility” that then runs together without a space with “whose texture.” Cummings seems to want readers to pay close attention to what comes after the colon but then foils their expectations with a surprise that turns their thinking in a new direction.

Cummings also uses parentheses in this poem. Normally, parentheses set off additional information that is not necessary to meaning but adds greater explanation or description. That is actually somewhat true in this poem, at least to a point. Cummings seems to want to place special emphasis on the words he puts in parentheses. The first instance is about his beloved's touch, which he compares to spring's touch. The second is a bit of an aside in which he says that he doesn't know what it is about his beloved that opens and closes him nor why he understands his beloved as he does.

Finally, Cummings uses no periods in this poem. There are no full stops. The words continue to flow out of his mind like a stream, and he catches readers up in them and pulls us along. We get the feeling that there is no stopping and not really any slowing down as the speaker pours out his thoughts and feelings about his beloved.

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