Read between the lines

Once in  a while, everybody likes departure from the normal routine. Let it be the normal routine of your day, your food, or the routine of writing.

Poetry. There is never one true definition to it. No matter how comprehensive the definition, there is always one troublesome poem that refuses to succumb to the standard dogma. This website – http://poetinthecity.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/what-is-poetry-50-definitions-and-counting/ has a list of fifty definitions for ‘Poetry’ and yet there is the need to add more. Personally, the 20th definition is something that is close to my heart.It says, 

Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting with the gift of speech

 

Since if you think about it, a painting is never superficial. The beautifully and seamlessly woven colors on the outside is just a facade which veils much deeper emotions and feelings, and it takes more than one glance to recognize this expertise. 

And a poem is no different. At times, a poem can convey a message stronger than a monotonous article containing a 1000 words. Simple because you never take a second look at an article, your gray cells are able to comprehend it on first sight (I hope so). Whereas, poetry is an enigma. There are poems which i have read a dozen times, scrutinized it, studied it carefully, still couldn’t contemplate it. But it is like an unrelenting mathematics problem. Once you understand it, there is no better feeling in the world. 

Before i derail off track, i wanted to try an onerous experiment of comprehending a poem. There are countless renowned poets and poetess, that choosing among such legends is itself a strenuous task. And then i came across E.E.Cummings (Edward Estlin Cummings). Being a poet, exploring the sea of imagination and penning them into incomprehensible yet articulate words is a gift to be treasured, but being a poet who departs from the standard norms to create his own set of rules is something to be astonished at. And E.E.Cummings had accomplished it. Barring the criticism that he received, his poetry was widely loved by people, especially youngsters, since it brushed up on sensitive topics such as sex and war.

And one of his famous poems goes like this..

           since feeling is first
          who pays any attention
          to the syntax of things
          will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

 

my blood approves,
and kisses are a far better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
–the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says

 

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

 

And death i think is no parenthesis

                    -e. e. cummings 

This type of poem is called a lyric, written in the author’s trademark style, containing unpredictable punctuation and unconventional style. In the poem he talks about how deeply felt passion is better than merely correct and conventional feeling. 

“since feeling is first”

The poem starts with putting it out there on the table that feeling comes first. Yes, this can be agreed unanimously. There are only a few things which a human can’t change about himself/herself. And one of them is the way they feel. So many great scientists and psychologists have wondered why a human feels so much,why do we experience such countless emotions? Disgust is a quick, nasty response that we experience when we encounter something that might make us sick. Anger quickly transitions us from a placid state to one where we’re ready to fight; fear prompts us to flee from dangerous situations. Sadness, on the other hand, can generate the resolve needed to change the direction of one’s life. Emotions can also motivate us to continue what we’re doing; the experience of joy is a pleasurable one, and we’re motivated to carry out the behavior that led to the emotion.

“who pays any attention
       to the syntax of things
          will never wholly kiss you;”

In the second line he starts to ask a question ‘Who pays any attention..’ and then ends abruptly by not asking any. Only when you read the next two sentences will you understand that the poet is trying to emphasize the importance of feeling with how someone kisses. He says if you are conventional, you can never completely experience the immense pleasure of a kiss. To do that you must put your feeling before your cognitive thinking. He could have easily phrased this more coherently, but this way, it grabs the attention of the reader to continue reading till they know what it means.

 

“wholly to be a fool

while Spring is in the world

 

my blood approves,
and kisses are a far better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
–the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter..”

 

In the next few lines, we see that he stresses on the same point. The word ‘Spring’ here refers to ‘love’ obviously, for he says he is willing to be a fool wholly, willing to seem irrational and listen to emotional impulses instead of a proper sound mind. And how kisses are a better fate than wisdom. And one tends to believe him as he claims to swear on all the flowers. These lines tells us how deeply and madly he has fallen in love with a women, and how concerned he is of her and her feelings, and how important she is to him, for he considers the mere flutter of her eyelids to command more power than his greatest gestures.  

 

“..we are for each other: then

laugh, leaning back in my arms”. 

 

And here we see that the poet is someone who likes to live in the moment. Neither does he reminisces over the past nor does he mourn about the future. And finally, 

 

“for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis”

 

These two lines are the most powerful of all, since they convey a strong meaning. It says how unlike most people are mistaken, life is not a paragraph, its not about writing but its about experience and sensation. However, it also creates a link to the following line, the last line of the poem, “And death i think is no parenthesis.”  With the reference to death in mind, “life is not a paragraph” could mean that life is not even as long as a paragraph. Hence is it very short and begs us to make the most of it.  A parenthesis is only the end of a phrase set off inside a sentence; however, death is not one of those. It is presumably a period, a full stop, the final end.  Once the “parenthesis” is passed, there is no going back, so it is important to make the most of life while it is there.

There might be a hidden meaning here as the introductory “since” in the first line of the poem, if read as a conjunction of time rather than causality, means that feeling comes first in life events, and death is last, both in the poem and in life itself.

To sum up this carpe diem poem, 
When you are in love you don’t worry about every thing being in order, you go by how you feel and just let it soak into your being each and every day. Just to be with the one you love and feel their kisses is better than all the “brain” stuff in the world put together. And to live in the moment, because it uses the threat of death to urge the addressee to hurry up and live life to the fullest, especially through love.