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Sound And Typography Of

“in Just.” Essay, Research Paper

Upon looking at e. e. cummings?s poem, ?in Just-?,perhaps, two features immediately become apparent: the use of white space between some words and lines, and the multiple use of a single word supporting an entire line. To a lesser degree, the poem?s visual also features the boys? and girls? names joined together as though they were each one, and the capitalization of the ?m? in ?balloonMan? towards the poem?s end. All these features contribute to how the poem will be read, and when the poem is read, the sound, furthered by alliteration, assumes an alternating rhythm of excitement and measured awareness. That is, an accelerated tempo that reflects the excited manner of child-like exuberance for springtime revelry, and the lull in tempo that is attributed to the measured awareness or ambivalent feelings felt towards the ? goat-footed balloonMan.? The poem?s rapid and then measured tempo creates an artistic tension that coincides with the speaker?s account of a remembered spring. By employing white space, alliteration, compressed conjunctions, and some unconventional capitalization, e. e. cummings creates a dream vision of a remembered springtime- revelry that reads with both excitement and a measured awareness.

White space is used after the first line, ?in Just-?, by cummings to emphasize the speaker?s observation that only in spring do the following things happen. The white space after ?spring? in the second line suggests that the speaker ponders first what his audience later learns to be a springtime memory . The white space is quite obviously used for the benefit of someone listening to the poem being read. The white space in the first line between ?Just-? and ?spring? of the second line builds suspense when the reader pauses to simulate white space, and again, after ?spring? when a child-like description defines what is uniquely available only in the spring. That is ?when the world is mud- / luscious?(lines 1-2). Almost immediately cummings uses white space to direct the sound and rhythm of the poem that is not unlike conversation.

A gradual dream-like state is suggested to the poem?s audience by cummings?s ?far and wee? refrain, which is given increasing white space and therefore longer pauses, until each word of the refrain supports its own line. Initially the refrain complements the speaker?s excited springtime revelry; in fact, line five flows nicely with the previous line?s slower tempo, and then acts with a slingshot effect to propel the poem?s most rapidly read line ?and eddieandbill come?(6) with the momentum of the conventional typeset ?and wee?(5). Lending an aural push to the sixth line, little tension is attributed to the ?lame balloonman.?(4) Whereas, white space separates every word of the repeated refrain in line thirteen, which does not lend an aural push to ? bettyandisbel come dancing?(14) like it did for the similar line six, and the conflicting tempo effectively increases the tension felt for the ?queer / old balloonman?(11-12) who seems to interrupt the speaker?s pleasant memories every time the springtime ?world? is viewed approvingly. The refrain at this point in the poem begins to slow tempo considerably since white space and its required pause separate ?and? and ?wee?(13). The refrain?s final repeat has each word occupying a separate line and ends the poem. Because of the contributing white space, the gradual decrease in tempo has the aural effect, perhaps, of the speaker lulling himself to sleep. Soundly reducing the poem?s pace to a crawl, cummings has many readers whispering the final word ?wee?(24).

The pauses afforded by white space not only affect the poem?s tempo but also contribute emphases. Save for line twenty-one, which holds two words, the last nine lines of ?in Just-? are supported by a single word. Although all nine lines create an emphasis alone, two of those nine lines probably command greater significance. The double-spaced indentation of ?the? in line nineteen holds much suspense for the audience since ?the? follows ?and? a structural change from the poem?s refrain of ?when the world is…? (2&10) that until this point follows ?spring?(2&9). The added suspense comes with the extended pause to simulate the end-line white space and the indentation. However, ?the?(19) prepares an even longer pause and anticipation for probably the most significant line ?goat-footed?(20) because the source of the poem?s tension is then revealed. Although the extra white space afforded to ?goat-footed?(20) follows that of the poem?s line structure, as in lines five, ten, and fifteen, the single- hyphenated word commands further notice and emphasis because of the quintuple-spaced indentation it is given, and no doubt, intended to deliver greater impact that way by cummings. The greater impact is justified since the audience now becomes privy to the identity of the once cryptically described ?little?and ?lame?(3 and 4), ?queer?and ?old?(11 and 12), relatively innocuous ? balloonman?(4 and 12) to the newly revealed ?goat-footed / balloonMan?(20 and 21). The ?balloonMan? is suggested to be the mythical Beelzebub or lecherous Pan overseeing the speaker and his playmates, which complements the tension derived from the poem?s conflicting rhythms and supports cummings?s poetic dream vision of the speaker?s remembered springtime-revelry. Granted, the visual change to the poem regarding the last nine lines is obvious, the poem?s beat nearly comes to a halt from the previous rapid and measured ones, imparting the quiet wonder?if not emphatic delivery of the last nine lines, and all serve to underline the growing experience found by the speaker that particular spring season; the season that connotatively suggests new growth and proliferation.

Equally important to the aural punctuation given to the ?goat-footed / balloonMan? in line twenty and twenty-one of ?in Just-?, is the unconventional capitalization of the ?m? in ?balloonMan?(21). The capitalized ?m? dictates that the poem be read with stressed emphasis on ?Man? within the word ?balloonMan?(21). Coupled with the white space after ?goat-footed?(20) and its accompanying simulated pause, the stressed final-syllable of ?balloonMan?(21) delivers an extra aural weight. Significant to the meaning in the poem of the word?s unconventional capitalization is the effect it has to stress the difference of classification between the children and the adult ?balloonMan?(20).

Another example of unconventional capitalization employed by cummings is in the poem?s first line. The poem?s first two words are intentionally switched in order, so that cummings can convey both the speech of a child and have the word ?Just-?(1) emphasized by virtue of its capitalization. The inverted order suggests the speech of a child because it is grammatically incorrect to say, in just spring. Important to note too, is that in the poem ?Just-?(1) modifies ?spring?(2)?hence the hyphenation. ?Just-?(1) also benefits from further aural intensity, as does the word ?spring?in line two, with the pause to simulate the white space that cummings places after the hyphen.

More child-like speech can be found in lines six and fourteen, in which cummings uses another unconventional practice. That is, compressed conjunctions are used to join the children?s names, which affect the speed in which the names are read. In line six ?eddieandbill? and line fourteen?s ?bettyandisbel? change the poem?s rhythm to a rapid excited pace. Springtime revelling is suggested by the speaker?s enthusiasm as he describes excitedly what activities his playmates are again able to do because it is spring.

In contrast, cummings uses alliteration to slow the poem?s tempo, as well as communicate the speaker?s springtime enjoyment. For example, ? when the world is mud- / luscious the little / lame balloonman?(2 – 4 ) must be read slowly in order to enunciate all the ?l? consonants. The aural effect is that the audience is forced to place importance on this slower passage, which prepares the poem?s tempo for the increasing measured awareness of the ?balloonman?(4) who is described to ?[whistle] far and wee.?(5) Although the internal alliteration of lines seven through nine have the same slowing effect on the poem?s tempo, cummings?s choice of words and line length communicate the speaker?s springtime enjoyment. Most who read, ?running from marbles and / piracies and it?s / spring?(7 -9) or the alliteration found ?from hop-scotch and jump-rope?(15) ,wish to return and repeat it because the lines are fun to say. This pleasant effect must be attributed to the speaker?s springtime revelry who also must wish to return to these activities if not for the constant stressful reminder of ?the queer/ old balloonman [whistling] / far and wee?(11 – 13). The poem?s conflicting tempos add tension to the speaker?s springtime memory, but the slowing of the tempo through cummings?s use of alliteration focuses the audience on the two emotional elements: springtime celebration and the ambivalence felt towards the ever-present ?balloonMan?(21).

?in Just-? is probably a good example of a free-verse poem. The poem?s visual appearance might be compared to a page of dialogue within a drama-script . What makes cummings?s poem better is the direction given to the reader, such as the odd capitalization to suggest an accented syllable, or the white space to imply a pause, better still, his use of compressed conjunctions to effect haste and emphatic tones, add the repetitive refrains for accent and syncopation and one could set this poem to music.

e.e.cummings-”in Just”

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