ABSTRACT by other poets. To understand his experimental work,


Reading a poem by American
modernist poet Edward Estlin Cummings is
not like reading a poem by other poets. To understand his experimental work, one
must first understand Cummings, his opinions and perspectives. Throughout his
career Cummings dedicated his life to the pursuit of remaining in an
active state of creating, and therefore experimented with many artistic mediums.
Cummings is not usually thought of as a classically-influenced poet; rather his
unconventional experimentation with form, grammar, punctuation, spelling and
syntax brought him much attention, creating an inspiring individuality.
Cummings poem ‘i carry your heart with me’ is immediately recognizable as a Cummings poem as
the title gives it away, for he was famous 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. This
article examines some interesting features of E. E. Cummings’ poetry, his style
of writing along with a stylistic
analysis of E.E Cummings’ poem “i carry your heart with me”, in order to better
understand the main idea of the poem which is ideal, selfless and profound love
for his beloved.

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Keywords: experimental; modern poetry;
Cummings; “I carry your heart with me”;poet

Table of
Front Page
Table of
1.     INTRODUCTION……………………………………………….4
Introduction to Modern Poetry. 5
Biography of the
Poet E.E. Cummings. 7
   3.1 E.E. Cummings Style of Writing. 10
An Analysis of E.E. Cummings “I carry your heart with me. 11
   4.1 Analysis of the Poem.. 12
5.     CONCLUSION.. 13
Works Cited. 14


The period of
time from the late nineteenth and the early part of the twentieth centuries,
known as the Modernist period, witnessed the appearance of mostly philosophical
and profoundly different pieces of literature. The writers of these literary works
(focusing specifically on E.E. Cummings in this paper) employed and applied new
methods and characteristics concerning style, plot, point of view, character, grammar,
etc. in their writings. Moreover these authors also had an extremely different vision
on life influenced by years of war and depression, scientific theories such as that
of Darwin’s evolution, social disputes involving religion, and political
issues, which generated a gloomy and weary feeling to this period of literature
(HOLT, et al, 1996).

Consequently there
are numerous works that embody the main characteristics of this period. These
include the experimental forms such as free verse and stream of consciousness
which are the easiest to recognize in modernist writings. One author in
particular who regularly applies these experimental forms in his works is T.S.
Eliot. His poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, is a dramatic monologue
that makes use of extreme stream of consciousness. Also considered to be one of
the most experimental poets and the focus of this paper is American poet and painter
E.E. Cummings. His use of peculiar experimental word coinages, shifting of
grammar, blending of established stanzaic forms and free verse, flamboyant
punning, typographic distortion and the most unusual punctuation, makes him
stand out amongst the modernist writers (Day, 2010).

Some other
striking features of Modernism is the fall from innocence, denoting that
mankind has fallen into corruption, evil, and immorality chiefly as a result of
both world wars and the Spanish Revolution, which resulted in the wipe out of much
of Europe and the appalling acts of violence committed by men against each
other. This fall from innocence is clearly portrayed in Wystan Hugh Auden’s poem
“Lullaby”. Furthermore Modernism witnessed the existence of extreme human
suffering, which can be considered one of the most dominant features of that
period. Additionally Modernist writers shifted the setting of their writing
from nature or rural areas to the cities. This was the result of the rapid
growth of the cities because such a huge amount of people were moving to the
cities from the countryside. Writers depicted the darkness and filth associated
with the cities to highlight the misery and suffering abound in them (Blades,

It can be said
that the beginning of the twentieth century witnessed some of the worst events
in the history of mankind. The results of the great Wars had ruined most of
Europe, killed millions of people and had left millions more in poverty to the
point of starvation. These aftermaths of the war led many to consider that
there was no ending to the pain and suffering witnessed by all. This
exemplified in Samuel Beckett “Endgame” where he portrays this eternal
suffering throughout the play. Ultimately, the devastation as a result of all
the Wars of the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries
greatly altered humanities outlook on life, bringing into question how God
could have possibly allowed such a repulsive events to have occurred (May, 2010).
Authors such E. E. Cummings and many more utilized a range of groundbreaking
and idiosyncratic methods and techniques in their works to depict the suffering
and sorrow experienced my many, and hence, launched a new genre of literature called
Modernism. The following information will shed light on E.E. Cummings as a
modernist poet, his biography as well as his style of writing with one of his
most well-known poems analyzed and exemplified.

2.    An Introduction to Modern Poetry

          The Modernist movement was a period of new revolutionary ideas particularly
in the field of poetry. Generally modern literature can be characterized by the
radical break with the traditions of literary subjects, forms, concepts and
styles. Regarding the field of modern poetry, the modernist elements can be examined
with regards to four key subheadings: modern or new experiments in form and great
variety of styles as in the case of Cummings’ poems, new themes and word-games,
new manners of expression, and complex and open-ended nature of their themes (Galens,

It can be
argued that modern poetry is usually described as being highly experimental,
meaning that it is a bold search for new forms of poetic expression or rather
the experimentation of new modes of expression. Another way modern poetry can
be defined is through the words of none other than TS Eliot himself who stated that
“The best contemporary poetry
can give us a feeling of excitement and a sense of fulfillment different from
any sentiment aroused even by very much greater poetry of a past age” (Howarth,

Most modern
poetry can be characterized by a feeling of anxiety about the world. Widespread
industrialization, rapid technological advance, new insights about human nature
and the universe, and the general disillusionment as a result of the world wars
have impacted changing the shape and pace of modern life for the worse. Poets such
as T.S. Eliot and E.E. Cummings have reacted to these things in a number of
ways. For example both have expressed in their works, the desire to escape from
the modern world and have responded to the challenge of modern life by upholding
such universal values as beauty and love (Ramachandran, 2015).   

Since Modernism
contains the many ‘-isms’, modern poets used many different methods to express
ideas and feelings. These included the imagist way which was established by
Ezra Pound in 1912. Here, poets would present concrete images so that readers
can comprehend the idea and experience the feelings themselves through the
senses. Moreover symbolism also had a profound influence on poets by allowing
them to express things in terms of deeply significant symbols of ideas and
feelings so that readers will be able to interpret them intellectually. Realism
allowed poets to truly reflect the veracity of the world. Naturalism portrayed
extreme realism by reflecting on the private, psychological, fantastic and the
neurotic (Pedersen, 2014). Furthermore impressionism focused on individual
moments of experience. Moreover expressionism was a way of pondering deep into
one’s own mind and attempting to voice the unconscious and deepest feelings.
Finally the surrealist tried to inflict on the mood of madness, intoxication
and neurosis to excite the illogical “language” (Howarth, 2012).

Finally it can
be concluded that modernist poets have ignored all the famous conventions and
traditional rules of the preceding eras in turn for the testing of a variety of
new experiment. Each modern poet makes his own rules in their poems; hence this
multiplicity of styles is what makes up modernist poetry (Harding, 2007).

3.    Biography of the Poet E.E.

Edward Estlin Cummings, or more commonly known as E. E. Cummings, was not
only a notable American poet but also a well-known painter, essayist, author,
and playwright. Considered to be one of the most innovative poets of the modern
age, his vast experimentation with the poetic form and language allowed him to
develop his own personal style. Cummings life achievements consists of the
composition of 2900 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays and many
essays, as well as a number of paintings and drawings, hence Cummings is
considered a key voice of the twentieth century (Eich, 2009).

October 14, 1894 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, E.E. Cummings was the first of
two children born to Edward Cummings and Rebecca Haswell Clarke. E.E. Cummings
was raised in a well-educated family and was considered to be very intelligent,
something he acquired from his talented father. Edward Cummings was an
instructor at Harvard University teaching sociology and political science. He
would later leave this job to become a Unitarian minister. From a young age E.E.
Cummings grew up in Harvard yard where he was constantly surrounded by all
aspects of Cambridge culture and tradition, with playmates including children
of other Harvard professors (GirRóN, 1991). He had an exceptional relationship
with his parents, especially his mother, who constantly encouraged him to write
poetry on a daily basis. Hence his talents allowed him to produce his first
piece of work at the age three, writing his first poem entitled “Oh, the pretty
birdie, O; with his little toe, toe, toe!”

By the time Cummings would attend high school, he was already composing
stories and verses by the age of fifteen he was writing poems on a daily basis.

In 1911,
Cummings enrolled at Harvard University and would later get his bachelors and
master’s degree here. He continued to reside at home for the first three years
of education. His studies gave him an in-depth background in English and
classical literature as well as good knowledge of the language which would
later be of great value to him in his poetic career. Cummings was an active
student at University, he was an active writer for the Harvard Monthly journal,
and in 1912 he published his first poems in that journal (Cohen,

Harvard University introduced Cummings to a
variety of avant-garde developments, like Cubism in painting and the Imagist
experiments of Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein. During his years at Harvard, Cummings had rebellious viewpoints toward traditional,
conventional art and literature, hence praising
imagination, intuition, and the individual. He would go on to inspire and influence later poets to exercise more
freedom in their writings. These outlooks would be characteristic of most
of Cummings works throughout his life (GirRóN, 1991).

In 1916, after obtaining his master’s degree
from Harvard, Cummings moved to New York and worked at an office job. Not being
satisfied with the job, he left for France the following year to volunteer in
an Ambulance Corps for the American Red Cross. After just a short time being
here Cummings was imprisoned for four months by the French authorities on
charges of treason, this imprisonment lead to the publication of his first book
and autobiography, The Enormous Room and published it in 1922. After being
released in 1918, he returned to New York City and soon after published his
first of twelve volumes of poetry Tulips and Chimneys (Cohen, 1990).

Cummings is said to have married three times,
his first marriage was to Elaine Orr in 1924, then in 1927 he renewed his vows
and married a second time to Anne Barton and finally his third and final
marriage was to Marion Morehouse in 1932. Cummings took permanent residency in
New York City till his final days.  

It’s not every day that a writer can change the
way people write forever, Cummings did just that. In Cummings writings on hears
a voice that speaks volumes to the modern world, a voice warning and at the
same time a celebratory one. He was honored with many awards throughout his life
for his extraordinary literary works and would influence writers to this day.
E.E Cummings spent his final day working; he died on
September 3rd, 1962 in North Conway, New Hampshire at the Memorial
Hospital, due to his deteriorating health
(Eich, 2009).

 3.1 E.E. Cummings Style
of Writing

E.E. Cummings is considered to
be one of the most experimental and innovative poets of the 20th
century. He is famous for creating his own distinctive style of writing, one
that is still used by many poets today. It was during his years in University
that he took a profound interest in the modernist movement. Despite his
interest in avant-garde styles,
most of Cummings works is traditional. His poems often deal with themes of love
and nature and are abundant with satire. His poetry also deals with the
relationship of the individual to the world (Li, X and Shi, M 2015).

During his years at college, Cummings studied Cubism and
Impressionism, and was greatly influenced by the imagist experimentation of
poet Ezra Pound and incorporated the imagist ideologies in his poetry. His
later visits to France would expose him to other movements including Dadaism
and Surrealism. Nevertheless Cummings would eventually find his own innovative
style, a style that would distinguish Cummings for many years to come (GirRóN, 1991).

It can be said that previously most writing was built on
rules that writers would follow, but Cummings changed all that by creating his
own rules or rather violated all rules of composition. One thing that he’s very
famous for was his “radical” experimentation with the idiosyncrasy of
syntax and linguistic like grammar, punctuation, capitalization, conjunction of
words, and spelling. Other unique, linguistic features that he applied to his
writings for his own purpose, was the use of verbs like “if”,
“am”, and “because” as nouns (Saha, 2016).

Cummings poems have a
distinguishable 14 line sonnet structure, with a complex rhyme scheme. Some of
his poems are characterized by a typographical style, with words, parts of
words or punctuation symbols scattered across the page. The reason he used this
method is because he knew the importance of presentation, he wanted to
challenge readers both visually and psychologically by painting a picture in
the readers mind       (Li and Shi, 2015).

Cummings poems were mostly
straightforward with a focus on topics of war, sex, and love. His poems
attacked certain religions, politics and conformity. He strongly portrayed his
discontent with people who followed society instead of being individualistic (Saha,
2016). As stated by Cummings himself:

“I realized it’s not so much about words or
lyricism…it’s a poem of imagery, your brain picks out what words it can and
arranges them into some sense within the jumble of symbols…and you read it more
with your mind like a picture then like a traditional poem” (Hawkins, n.d. p.1).

It is this idiosyncratic state
of E.E. Cummings poems that drew diverse readers to his poems and predestined
him to come to be one of the most widely recognized literary figures of the 20th
century (Saha, 2016).


An Analysis
of E.E. Cummings “I carry your heart with me”

Cummings is famous for his experimental ways of
writing, but his subject matter was commonly traditional and simple. Cumming’s
favored controversial topics such as war, death, and sex, but his favorite was topics
of love and season of rebirth. Cummings has
been called one of the best love poets of his time. The following will be an
analysis of Cummings poem “i carry your heart with me,” This poem has
been a favorite love poem and a favorite selection that has been recited in
many weddings and also in movies even up to the present day. This proves that
Cummings writing still lives and continues to inspire many.


i carry your heart with me(i carry it in


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)


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


here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart


i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

(Ardagh, n.d. p.1)

 4.1 Analysis of the Poem

The poem i
carry your heart with me (i carry it in is a deep and selfless love poem.
It is about a profound and sincere love that transcends the soul and mind. Here
we observe a spontaneous overflow of emotions. There is an outburst of
feelings. It is a profound love, the kind that keeps the stars apart and that
transcends the soul or the mind (Ardagh, n.d).

In this poem we
observe Cummings lack of use of capitalization. He has neglected the use of capital
letters. There is also unusual paragraphing in the poem. In this poem we come
to know that Cummings has taken on a unique and experimental style of writing
by breaking certain set patterns of writing. The scheme of the poem is ABAB
(Nawaz, 2014).

 i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
consist of four stanzas. The arrangement of lines in each stanza is different.
First stanza contains four lines, second contains five lines, third stanza
contains five lines and last one contains only one line. There is unusual
capitalization in this poem. We come to know that the first word of the title
of the poem i carry your heart with me(i carry it in is a small letter i.e.
“i”. There is an unusual pattern of lines, unusual spacing, and unusual
capitalization in this poem. Cummings has made use of parenthesis and we don’t find
that there is any full stops at the end of any line which can indicate the rush
of thoughts. This lack of punctuation can indicate there are no limits and
restrictions in lovemaking, in the same way you can feel free from any rules
and set patterns of writing, while writing about your beloved. It shows poet’s
intense love and uncontrollable passions for his beloved (Li and Shi, 2015).

distinctive feature of E.E. Cummings poem is his lack of the use of capital letters
in his writings. I, which is a personal pronoun, and based on the rules of
grammar must be written in capital letter, is violated here. We come to know
that in this poem, there is unusual capitalization, unusual spacing and unusual
pattern of lines in the stanzas. Also contracted forms of words are also being
used in this poem, something that is not allowed in the standard writing. Line
pattern and line spacing is not according to the set norms of grammar
(Ardagh, n.d.).

He also uses
alliteration which creates music through playing words like sky of the sky, bud
of the bud and root of the root. We can say that, to some extent, in first and
last line of the poem, there is the use of the refrain. The refrain is the
regular pattern of lines that follows after every stanza. The poet has given
metaphorical statements to compare the love and beauty of a girl with the moon,
sun and stars. There is the use of imagery in this poem. Here is the use of
personification for the poet gives moon and sun human qualities who can sing like
human beings (Nawaz, 2014).



can be concluded that E. E. Cummings was an exceptional poet. His style of
poetry, which was mostly characterized by individuality, his distinctive form,
structure and viewpoint, his use of traditional themes made Cummings a master
of the art of poetry in his own style. Many people to this day appreciate his
works for its extreme uniqueness.

once stated: “So far as I
am concerned, poetry and every other art was and is and forever will be strictly
and distinctly a question of individuality…Nobody else can be alive for you;
nor can you be alive for anybody else” (Islam, 2011). This is Cummings firm belief on “the freedom of the individual to think and
explore and create,” During
the 20th century, America saw a rapid change in society ideals, this
was a breaking point for modernist poets like E.E. Cummings to gain their
title. After securing his place among the likes of other great American poets
like Ezra Pound, Cummings contributed a lot by helping shape literary
expression in the 1900’s. Richard Kennedy, of the Modern American Poetry
Foundation, notes: “he
Cummings continued to produce poems of with and ingenuity, of vigorous
satire, and of beauty and delicacy well into his seventh decade” (Everett, 2001). It is because of these characteristics that by the time of
his death in 1962, E.E. Cummings had become one of America’s most beloved
modernist poets, and the most widely read as well.