Use Of Punctuation
Many people first think of cummings’s uses of language, especially his odd methods of punctuation, when they think of the poet. In fact, his unconventional approach to poetry inspired the wrath of many conservative critics during his lifetime. As S. V. Baum notes in his 1954 South Atlantic Quarterly article, “E. E. Cummings has served as the indispensable whipping boy for those who are outraged by the nature of modern poetry.” Yet, cummings has also been acknowledged, especially recently, as one of the great modern love poets. In turn, the poem, “somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond,” is often thought of as one of cummings’s best love poems. As Robert K. Johnson notes in his 1994 entry on the poem in the Reference Guide to American Literature, it “exemplifies Cummings’s many poems in praise of love.” It is cummings’s unique use of language that makes “somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond” such a potent statement on the powerful qualities of love.
It is apparent from a first glance at the poem that cummings follows his own rules when it comes to the use of language. This is most noticeable in his lack of spaces. The first line reads “somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond,” a sentence construct that lacks proper grammar. Normally, when a writer uses a comma, he or she includes a space after it, to set the preceding phrase apart from the words that come after it. In this first line, however, cummings runs all of the words and the comma together. In fact, he continues this throughout the poem anywhere there is a comma in the middle of a line. One may wonder at first, as some critics have, whether cummings is doing this just to be individualistic. Yet, if one examines this odd use of punctuation in relation to cummings’s theme of love, it makes sense why he is running all of the words together. Cummings is so enamored of his beloved that he does not want to even take the customary pauses that punctuation marks, such as commas, introduce into a line of poetry.
One can also find support for this idea by examining the poem’s periods—or lack thereof. Poets use periods in different ways within their poetry. Some use them mid-line, to force readers to slow down in their reading. Others use them at the ends of lines to finish thoughts. At the very least, however, poets often use a period or some other end mark such as a question mark to close out the poem and signal to the reader that they have finished the examination of their subject. In “somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond,” cummings does not do this. In fact, he does not include any periods at any point in the poem. It is as if he wants to indicate grammatically the timeless quality of his love, which will never end.
Cummings’s lack of capitalization also underscores this idea. Just as there are no periods in the poem, there are also no capitalized words. While poets vary in their use of capitals, they will often at the very least capitalize the first word of the first line, to indicate that it is the beginning of the poem. In fact, in cummings’s time, poets were expected to do much more. Baum says “Academic procedure obligates the poet to capitalize the initial letter in every line and the pronoun I wherever it may occur.” Cummings, however, ignored this rule, as he ignored most other poetic rules. He did this for various reasons. Within the context of “somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond,” he does not capitalize any words, including the first word of the first line....
(The entire section is 1454 words.)