Sunday, 1 February 2015

Sunday Morning Musing: A Poet's Advice to Students

EE Cummings portrait ~ by Fabrizio Cassetta on Fine Art America

'A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words.' 

On individuality, voice, and the real feat of feeling in poetry, there is much to mull over here in this advice (posted below) from one of my favourite poets, EE Cummings. 

I'm particularly struck by his surmise that when we use words like other people 'we are not poets.' In being a poet as he sees it (feels it), it is essential to be an individual too ('nobody-but-yourself') and to have a distinct voice of one's own, one that is imbued with feeling. Of course his poetry is a demonstration of this, an unique eureka of originality with an individual style so grand it could almost stand alone as a genre. In his manipulated syntax and grammar Cummings found a style that readily expressed modes and depths of feeling like none before, eliciting a 'feeling first' reaction in the reader. In fact, to wholly interpret an EE Cummings poem, it is necessary to feel it first - to probe at it with the antennae of the subconscious and sensory self, not that of the logical analytical mind. Logic impedes it, feeling frees it.

Language is a medium full of possibilities Cummings' poetry proves. Much like the human brain, we only use a small percentage of its capability, leaving its vast potential mostly untapped. To write poetry is to tap in to some of it, but here Cummings urges us to tap more. To go beyond. To not settle for the norm. His poetry pushed the boundaries of language to open up a whole new realm of discourse: one of feeling first. He succeeded (most dazzlingly) in finding an individual and authentic voice, unparallelled in the poetry canon. 

If you're not familiar with his work, I urge you to have a look. You will be amazed, puzzled and dazed. And more liberated to push the boundaries of your own voice into the wonderful colourful domain of Individual. 

*(You can read a selection of ee cummings poems: here)
To individuality and authenticity!

~ Siobhán 

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