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i carry your heart with me by E.E. Cummings: Poem Analysis

i carry your heart with me by E.E. Cummings: Poem Analysis
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  • 0:00 Portrait Of The Poet
  • 1:23 Form & Rhyme Scheme
  • 2:54 Subject & Punctuation
  • 3:47 Meaning & Words
  • 4:35 Painting The Poem
  • 5:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Megan Thompson

Megan has taught college English and has a master's degree in creative writing.

E.E. Cummings wrote almost 3,000 poems over the course of his life. Let's take a close look at one of his most treasured, ''i carry your heart with me'', which has been called one of the best love poems ever written.

Portrait of the Poet

Reading a poem by E.E. Cummings is not like reading a poem by other poets. To understand his experimental work, one must first understand Cummings, his opinions and perspectives. Like many poets and artists, Cummings was something of a square peg. Hints of his non-conformist writing style, which his poetry would later echo, can be seen in letters he wrote.

During World War I, E.E. Cummings, a committed pacifist, was a volunteer ambulance driver in France. Vocal about his lack of hatred for the Germans, he purposefully included anti-war language in his letters to confuse the French censors. This was just the beginning of Cummings attempting to turn the institution on its head.

The poem 'i carry your heart with me' is immediately recognizable as a Cummings poem for several reasons. First, we must notice the title. Cummings was known for his use of lowercase, sometimes even using it in his name, as in ee cummings. Cummings was a Modernist, and Modernists believed in stripping away all that was unnecessary in a poem in order to showcase its form.

Using only lowercase, as Cummings does, is not only a way of stripping away the clutter, but also a means of forcing us to alter our perception. When a poem doesn't look the way we expect it to look, we are forced to pay attention. This is what Cummings does right from the beginning with his unusual title.

Form and Rhyme Scheme

Cummings' desire was to make people notice their own lives, to break from the frenzy of our rushing world and all the rules that hold us in place. He accomplishes this by using a few different techniques in his poem, such as experimenting with form. A close look at 'i carry your heart with me' reveals that the poem is actually a sonnet.

Sonnets are traditionally poems written in 14 lines with some type of rhyme scheme and a final rhyming couplet. Cummings takes the form of the sonnet and reinvents it, for example with his use of internal rhyme in the first stanza.

'i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear'

Note the use of the word 'dear,' buried in the middle of the third line, to rhyme with 'fear.' Most sonnets use end rhyme, which is when the words at the end of lines form a rhyme scheme with each other.

In the following stanzas, however, Cummings employs a more traditional rhyme scheme. Take special notice of the words that end each line.

'no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet) i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you'

While 'true' and 'you' are emblematic of pure rhyme, 'want' and 'meant' illustrate slant rhyme, which is when the rhyme is close, but not spot-on.

Subject and Punctuation

Cummings wrote in experimental ways, but his subject matter was often traditional and straightforward. Topics such as war, death, and sex appealed to him, but his favorite was love. Cummings has been called one of the best love poets of his time.

An unmistakable idiosyncrasy of the poet is the use - or rather misuse - of punctuation. Cummings used punctuation to emphasize his subject. In the poem 'i carry your heart with me,' there are no spaces between the punctuation marks, suggesting a close, intimate feeling, like when you love someone so deeply you cannot bear to have any space between you.

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