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E.E. Cummings

Edward Estlin Cummings (1894-1962) was an American poet and painter (surprise to some, self included) who gained attention for his literary experimentation in punctuation and phrases. A Harvard graduate who served with an ambulance corps in World War I in France. However, he was imprisoned briefly because French censors deemed his letters home to be critical of the war efforts. This experience fostered a deep distrust of government authority and was the genesis for his first publication, The Enormous Room (1922).100 Selected Poems[ Click to Order Cummings' 100 Selected Poems (soft $) ]


Buffalo Bill's
        who used to
        ride a watersmooth-silver
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat

he was a handsome man
                      and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death
e.e. cummings

This poem is among one of Cummings' most anthologized poems and exemplifies his experimentation: the lack of spacing between words (here numbers) to demonstrate a run-on effect. The closing is what really brings this poem together: the direct address to death, "how do you like your blueeyed boy/ Mister Death."

Of course, the poem is more than an honor to the cowboy Buffalo Bill who died in 1916. As a testament to the folk legend, the work embodies a sense of nostalgia, whimsy, and freshness.

Links of Interest:

E.E. Cummings
This site has Cummings' avant-garde typographical layouts, as well as chronology, bibliography, and links to other Cummings resources.

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