E. E. Cummings

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What are two language conventions that E. E. Cummings disregards in his poetry?

Quick answer:

E.E. Cummings largely disregards the language conventions of capitalization, punctuation, and spacing in his poetry.

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E.E. Cummings was a poet who loved to experiment with language and to break the rules. When readers first look at Cummings's poems, they often scratch their heads and wonder why there are so many mistakes and who edited these. But Cummings is quite deliberate in his choices. Let's examine some particular language conventions that he commonly disregards.

First, Cummings generally ignores capital letters. He doesn't even capitalize the first letters of his own name. He rarely, if ever, capitalizes first words of sentences or poetic lines, which would certainly be according to convention. Rather, as in “in Just-” he sometimes capitalizes a seemingly random word in the middle of a line for special emphasis.

Cummings also largely ignores conventions of punctuation. He rarely inserts commas, periods, and other punctuation marks according to grammatical rules. Rather he develops his own usages, largely with regard to emphasis and pacing. In the poem “somewhere i have never travelled,gladly before,” Cummings inserts commas but then fails to add a space after them (as in the title, which is also the first line). He seems to want to suggest a quick pace, almost a hurried flurry of words that even commas cannot stop. In the same poem, Cummings also includes only colons and parentheses, the former introducing something the reader might not expect and the latter adding emphasis. He uses no periods at all.

Further, Cummings plays with spacing throughout his poetry. Sometimes, as in the example above, he eliminates spaces. Other times, he spreads his words across the page with large gaps of white space between them.

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