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
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 the 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)


E.E. Cummings

An example of why students of neuroscience would do well to study poetry.

Cummings published this piece in 1958's Ninety-Five Poems (#92). In typical fashion, it's titled after the first line. It's one of Cummings' most famous, dwarfed only by his more whimsical r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r and l(a, or more playful anyone lived in a pretty how town. Those who find Cummings' more obscure work impenetrable use this poem's relative accessibility as a gateway to understanding his style.

Academics use the diplomatic term "typographical independence" to describe Cummings' unconventional use of capitalization, punctuation, spacing, and word order. You can't blame them, really.

Read the poem quickly. Let yourself trip, run into the commas, get lost in the extra words, regain control of the poem just as a line crafted exactly for the purpose hits you like a thrown sandbag.

Now, read it out loud. Did you notice the hexams? The anapests? Did your voice become plaintive at "and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant?" Did your volume drop for the parentheses?

Visual and auditory memory are two different beasts. This is why silent and out-loud readings produce different results. Stimuli from every sense are eventually shuttled to the thalamus, but hearing, a more primitive sense, takes a more direct route. This is not a cerebral poem; it's a visceral one. This is what Wordsworth was aspiring to at Tintern Abbey. This is what the Romantics were outlining when they realized that poetry was most effective when it was streamlined to fit with human emotion. Instinct tells me, though, that even without the romantics, Cummings would have figured it out on his own.

Artists know. This poem has been set to music in over 160 recordings.

Many fledgling poets, attracted to Cummings for his unconventionality, ignore form altogether, failing to understand that Cummings developed his strange cadences very precisely to better convey specific themes in his poetry.

What do I mean?

Look closely: it's a Petrarchan sonnet.

Writers of the Petrarchan sonnet commonly take small liberties with the framework, especially when writing in English, because the form was developed in Italian. Fittingly, the term "Petrarchan" also refers to a kind of unattainable love - a mutation between words that certainly makes more sense in Italian. But.

These changes, my friends, are more than a matter of convenience.

Did you look for the rhyme scheme in the last word of each line of the first octave? Me too. Look at the beginning of each line.

And the first octave - not really an octave, is it. The two-word line "i fear" is seemingly wedged there, front and center. It seems like an octave with a hangnail until you take it with the following words:


i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)


"i fear" breaks the rhythm of the first four lines, transitioning the reader into that of the last four.

What we have is a statement on expressing unattainable love. Cummings has mirrored this impossibility by twisting a strict (and by his time archetypal) metric, in much the same way cosmologists describe four-dimensional objects in terms of warped three-dimensional ones. This is what something indescribable looks like: something around which description and form are enveloped, imperfectly, bulging in places, not totally comprehensible.

Unconventional poetic form has never been so deliberate, or so beautiful.

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