In Just by ee cummings: Poem Analysis

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  • 0:01 Cummings' Literary Background
  • 0:40 Cummings' Writing Style
  • 1:50 In Just
  • 2:20 Summary and Analysis
  • 5:12 Major Themes
  • 5:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Katie Surber

Katie has a Master's degree in English and has taught college level classes for ten years.

In this lesson, we will briefly examine the literary background and writing style of the American poet ee cummings. We will then discuss his poem 'in Just' and analyze its major themes.

Cummings' Literary Background

Although most famous for his poetry, ee cummings was also a playwright, artist, and essayist. After serving in World War I, cummings traveled with other writers and artists. In 1920, cummings' first poems were published. His popularity increased, and he continued to write throughout his lifetime. He earned a number of honors, including two Guggenheim Fellowships, a grant given to writers who show exceptional creativity in the arts. According to the Academy of American Poets, at the time of cummings' death, he was the second most widely read poet in America.

Cummings' Writing Style

Many literary critics have praised cummings' poetry as unique, individualistic, and original. In his writing, cummings experiments with punctuation, form, spelling, and really does not follow any traditional poetry pattern. By doing so, he created his own writing style. His poems are brief, but emphasize key words and ideas, some of which he created on his own. Cummings also uses the layout of the poem to help create his theme. He may interrupt sentences, use lower case to start new sentences, and change spacing or syntax. When reading cummings, it is important to look at the entire poem and each word, even the punctuation of the poem, to help find the meaning.

Often times, cummings' writing seems very light and includes topics about love, family, and nature. However, as many critics would note, there is a sense of sarcasm, a use of irony to mock or show contempt in his poems. While some read the poems as lighthearted, others read the poems as an attack on traditional thinking.

Let's look at his poem 'in Just' so you can see for yourself.

In Just

'in Just-

spring when the world is mud-

luscious the little

lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come

running from marbles and

piracies and it's

spring

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer

old balloonman whistles

far and wee

and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and

it's

spring

and

the

goat-footed

balloonMan whistles

far

and

wee'

Summary and Analysis

'In Just' is first a poem about nature, particularly about the start of spring. The poem immediately sets the scene, 'In just spring,' followed by cummings' description of spring, 'when the world is mud-luscious.' We all know the feel of spring. When winter melts, and the mud is everywhere.

In the next lines, cummings writes of the people coming out to celebrate spring: 'the little lame balloonman whistles far and wee.' When the balloonman calls, the first group of children, 'eddieandbill' leave their games of marbles to come outside for spring. The balloonman again whistles, and the second group of children, 'bettyandisbel,' come dancing and play hop-scotch and jump rope. There is a celebration of spring and all that it offers: the mud, the puddles, the children, and the games outside.

Like many of cummings' other poems, the theme of nature is innocent, but there can be an interpretation of irony and even sexuality. To find this theme, we must first understand the balloonman mentioned several times in the poem, and at the end of the poem described as 'goat footed.' Many critics have associated this description with Pan, the goat-footed Greek god that brings sexuality to children. This overlaps with the idea of spring itself, which is a time of change in nature.

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