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The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)


The poem “somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond” first appeared in E. E. Cummings’s W: Seventy
New Poems, a collection of seventy poems. It is poem 57 in a section often labeled “Poems in Praise of Love
and Lovers.” While the first thirty-five poems in the collection emphasize the author’s low estimate of humans
as social animals, the final half stresses a positive view of humankind based on individual love and on the
bonding created by relationships.
The poem is an interior monologue using Cummings’s lyric and mythic style. Using the Renaissance archetypes
of gardens, flowers, and nature as symbols for his mistress and her laudable qualities, Cummings explores the
essential rhythms and cycles of the natural world while drawing parallels to idyllic love.
The woman in the poem is thought to be Anne Barton, a witty, vivacious socialite who began an affair with
Cummings in 1925. She was his second love, and she restored his liveliness of spirit after his disastrous affair
with a married woman who bore Cummings’s first child. The poem begins with a travel/discovery image, as
Cummings tries to explore the nature of his relationship with the woman. He is captivated by her but finds her
very nearness disconcerting; it reveals what he is missing without her. Stanzas 2 and 3 picture Cummings as a
flower, a reversal of the typical comparison of women to flowers; it also portrays the woman as spring and
snow, natural...
(The entire section is 448 words.)
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somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond Homework Help Questions
 In Cumming's "somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond," could this poem be about the love...
e.e. cummings' poem, "somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond" speaks of a love for a woman, not a
child. There are many lines that seem to infer that the poem is about the woman a man...
 How does the rose function as a central image in "somwhere i have never travelled"?I...
In this fine poem by cummings, the rose functions as a metaphor. The rose's slow opening in spring is presented
as an analogy for the person addressed, and, specifically, for the relationship of...

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond Forms


and Devices
(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)
Cummings’s “somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond” utilizes several
experimental forms in order to transport the reader beyond the seen world into the
unseen. The poem’s synesthetic style is the most important innovation here; Cummings
linguistically merges each of the five senses with traits that belong to another sense. The
poem begins with sight (eyes) but also emphasizes sound (silence). The second, third,
and fourth stanzas deal with the sense of touch and revolve around variations based on
the words “closed” and “open.” Yet the ability to feel is also strangely joined with the sight
image of stanza 1 as the words “look,” “colour,” “petal,” and “rose” in the middle stanza
imply the necessity of vision.
The synesthesia repeats in stanza 5 as Cummings joins sound and sight in the words “the
voice of your eyes.” Smell is also implied in “deeper than all roses.” The images culminate
in touch, smell, sound, a visual image (having small hands), and the personification of
rain.
Experiments with punctuation, capitalization, ellipsis, and fragmentation are also part of
the uniqueness of the poem. For example, commas, semicolons, colons, and parentheses
are present, while no periods are used. As a result, the reader slides effortlessly from idea
to idea, and a simultaneousness of imagery is created.
Other poetic techniques employed by Cummings in the poem include oxymoron and
simile....
(The entire section is 425 words.)

E.E. Cummings Biography


Artist, Author, Poet, Playwright (1894–1962)

QUICK FACTS North Conway, New Hampshire


NAME AKA
E.E. Cummings E.E. Cummings
OCCUPATION Edward E. Cummings
Artist, Author, Poet, Playwright FULL NAME
BIRTH DATE Edward Estlin Cummings
October 14, 1894  SYNOPSIS
DEATH DATE  BACKGROUND
September 3, 1962  A NONCONFORMIST STYLE
EDUCATION
Harvard University, Cambridge  RECEIVES RECOGNITION
Latin School  DEATH AND LITERARY LEGACY
PLACE OF BIRTH  CITE THIS PAGE
Cambridge, Massachusetts
PLACE OF DEATH

E.E. Cummings was a 20th century poet and novelist known for his innovations
in style and structure.
IN THESE GROUPS
 FAMOUS ARTISTS
 FAMOUS FICTION AUTHORS
 FAMOUS HARVARD UNIVERSITY ALUMNI
 FAMOUS PEOPLE BORN ON OCTOBER 14
Show All Groups
1 of 3
QUOTES
“So far as I am concerned, poetry and every other art was, is, and forever will be strictly
and distinctly a question of individuality.”
—E.E. Cummings
Synopsis
Born on October 14, 1894, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, E.E. Cummings went on to become an innovative
poet known for his lack of stylistic and structural conformity, as seen in volumes like Tulips and
Chimneys and XLI Poems. After self-publishing for much of his career, he eventually found wide recognition. A
playwright and visual artist as well, Cummings died on September 3, 1962.
Background
Edward Estlin Cummings was born on October 14, 1894, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His father was a
minister and professor, while his mother instilled in the youngster a love of language and play. Cummings went
on to earn both his B.A. and his M.A. by 1916 from Harvard University, where his father taught, before going
on to serve in World War I overseas as a volunteer for the ambulance corps.
A pacifist, Cummings was imprisoned for several months by French authorities for suspicion of treason due to
letters he'd written. He later recounted his jail experiences in the autobiographical novel The Enormous Room,
published in 1922.
A Nonconformist Style
His next book, Tulips and Chimneys (1923), was a collection of poems. He published a few more volumes of
poetry in the 1920s and '30s. Cummings, who lived in Paris and New York, became known for poems that
played wildly with form and spacing, punctuation, capitalization, overall grammar and pacing (a sample title of
one of his poems: "the hours rise up putting off stars and it is"), perhaps serving as a structural metaphor for the
writer's belief that much of modern society killed individual creativity and freedom.
Nonetheless, he was also able to write traditionally styled verse such as sonnets with a flair for wit and whimsy.
Cummings' work was also known for its focus on nature, sexuality and love, in both a sensual and a spiritual
sense.
Cummings wrote the avant-garde play Him, performed by the Provincetown Players in 1927, and a few years
later traveled to the Soviet Union. Though curious, he was in fact put off by the government's social policies,
which he wrote about with unconventional prose in his 1933 work Eimi.
Receives Recognition
Unable to find a publisher, Cummings self-published much of his work and struggled financially. It was only in
the 1940s and '50s, with a burgeoning counterculture, that his style of writing came to be more favored by the
masses and he gave live readings before full houses.
He received a fellowship from the Academy of American Poets at the start of the 1950s. He later spoke about
his work as part of Harvard's Charles Eliot Norton lecture series, presented in the 1953 book i: six nonlectures.
Later in the decade he won the Bollingen Prize for Poetry from Yale University.
Cummings was also a noted visual artist who presented one-man gallery showings. He was married three times.
Death and Literary Legacy
Cummings died on September 3, 1962, in North Conway, New Hampshire, from a brain hemorrhage, leaving
legions of poems as a literary legacy. An overview of his writing can be found in E.E. Cummings: Compete
Poetry, 1904-1962, while other published volumes include Erotic Poems, The Early Poems of E.E.
Cummings and Fairy Tales.
There are several biographies available on the poet, including 2014's E.E. Cummings: A Life by Susan Cheever.

(E.E. Cummings in January 1920. Photo: MPI/Getty Images)


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Citation Information
Article Title
E.E. Cummings Biography
Author

Biography of Edward Estlin Cummings


Edward Estlin Cummings, popularly known as E. E. Cummings, with the abbreviated form of his name often
written by others in all lowercase letters as e. e. cummings, was an American poet, painter, essayist, author, and
playwright. His body of work encompasses approximately 2,900 poems, an autobiographical novel, four plays
and several essays, as well as numerous drawings and paintings. He is remembered as a preeminent voice of
20th century poetry, as well as one of the most popular.

Birth and early years


Cummings was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on October 14, 1894 to Edward and Rebecca
Haswell Clarke Cummings. He was named after his father but his family called him by his middle
name. Estlin's father was a professor of sociology and political science at Harvard University and later
a Unitarian minister. Cummings described his father as a hero and a person who could accomplish
anything that he wanted to. He was well skilled and was always working or repairing things. He and
his son were close, and Edward was one of Cummings' most ardent supporters.

His mother, Rebecca, never partook in stereotypically "womanly" things, though she loved poetry and
reading to her children. Raised in a well-educated family, Cummings was a very smart boy and his
mother encouraged Estlin to write more and more poetry every day. His first poem came when he
was only three: "Oh little birdie oh oh oh, With your toe toe toe." His sister, Elizabeth, was born when
he was six years old.

Education
In his youth, Estlin Cummings attended Cambridge Latin High School. Early stories and poems were
published in the Cambridge Review, the school newspaper.

From 1911 to 1916, Cummings attended Harvard University, from which he received a B.A. degree in
1915 and a Master's degree for English and Classical Studies in 1916. While at Harvard, he
befriended John Dos Passos, at one time rooming in Thayer Hall, named after the family of one of his
Harvard acquaintances, Scofield Thayer, and not yet a freshman-only dormitory. Several of
Cummings's poems were published in the Harvard Monthly as early as 1912. Cummings himself
labored on the school newspaper alongside fellow Harvard Aesthetes Dos Passos and S. Foster
Damon. In 1915, his poems were published in the Harvard Advocate.

From an early age, Cummings studied Greek and Latin. His affinity for each manifests in his later
works, such as XAIPE (Greek: "Rejoice!"; a 1950 collection of poetry), Anthropos (Greek: "human";
the title of one of his plays), and "Puella Mea" (Latin: "My Girl"; the title of his longest poem).

In his final year at Harvard, Cummings was influenced by writers such as Gertrude Stein and Ezra
Pound. He graduated magna cum laude in 1916, delivering a controversial commencement address
entitled "The New Art". This speech gave him his first taste of notoriety, as he managed to give the
false impression that the well-liked imagist poet, Amy Lowell, whom he himself admired, was
"abnormal". For this, Cummings was chastised in the newspapers. Ostracized as a result of his
intellect, he turned to poetry. In 1920, Cummings's first published poems appeared in a collection of
poetry entitled Eight Harvard Poets

Career
In 1917 Cummings enlisted in the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps, along with his college friend John
Dos Passos. Due to an administrative mix-up, Cummings was not assigned to an ambulance unit for
five weeks, during which time he stayed in Paris. He became enamored of the city, to which he would
return throughout his life.

On September 21, 1917, just five months after his belated assignment, he and a friend, William Slater
Brown, were arrested on suspicion of espionage. The two openly expressed anti-war views;
Cummings spoke of his lack of hatred for the Germans. They were sent to a military detention camp,
the Dépôt de Triage, in La Ferté-Macé, Orne, Normandy, where they languished for 3½ months.
Cummings's experiences in the camp were later related in his novel, The Enormous Room about
which F. Scott Fitzgerald opined, "Of all the work by young men who have sprung up since 1920 one
book survives- The Enormous Room by e e cummings....Those few who cause books to live have not
been able to endure the thought of its mortality."

He was released from the detention camp on December 19, 1917, after much intervention from his
politically connected father. Cummings returned to the United States on New Year's Day 1918. Later
in 1918 he was drafted into the army. He served in the 73rd Infantry Division at Camp Devens,
Massachusetts, until November 1918.

Cummings returned to Paris in 1921 and remained there for two years before returning to New York.
During the rest of the 1920s and 1930s he returned to Paris a number of times, and traveled
throughout Europe, meeting, among others, Pablo Picasso. In 1931 Cummings traveled to the Soviet
Union and recounted his experiences in Eimi, published two years later. During these years
Cummings also traveled to Northern Africa and Mexico and worked as an essayist and portrait artist
for Vanity Fair magazine (1924 to 1927).

Cummings' papers are held at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Final years and death

Grave of E. E. CummingsIn 1952, his alma mater, Harvard, awarded Cummings an honorary seat as
a guest professor. The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures he gave in 1952 and 1955 were later collected
as i: six nonlectures.

Cummings spent the last decade of his life traveling, fulfilling speaking engagements, and spending
time at his summer home, Joy Farm, in Silver Lake, New Hampshire.

He died on September 3, 1962, at the age of 67 in North Conway, New Hampshire of a stroke. His
cremated remains were buried in Lot 748 Althaea Path, in Section 6, Forest Hills Cemetery and
Crematory in Boston. In 1969, his third wife, Marion Morehouse Cummings, died and was buried in
an adjoining plot: Lot 748, Althaea Path, Section 6.

Poetry
Despite Cummings' consanguinity with avant-garde styles, much of his work is quite traditional. Many
of his poems are sonnets, albeit often with a modern twist, and he occasionally made use of the blues
form and acrostics. Cummings' poetry often deals with themes of love and nature, as well as the
relationship of the individual to the masses and to the world. His poems are also often rife with satire.

While his poetic forms and themes share an affinity with the romantic tradition, Cummings' work
universally shows a particular idiosyncrasy of syntax, or way of arranging individual words into larger
phrases and sentences. Many of his most striking poems do not involve any typographical or
punctuation innovations at all, but purely syntactic ones.

As well as being influenced by notable modernists including Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound,
Cummings' early work drew upon the imagist experiments of Amy Lowell. Later, his visits to Paris
exposed him to Dada and surrealism, which in turn permeated his work. He began to rely on
symbolism and allegory where he once used similie and metaphor. In his later work, he rarely used
comparisons that required objects that were not previously mentioned in the poem, choosing to use a
symbol instead. Due to this, his later poetry is “frequently more lucid, more moving, and more
profound than his earlier.” Cummings also liked to incorporate imagery of nature and death into much
of his poetry.

While some of his poetry is free verse (with no concern for rhyme or meter), many have a
recognizable sonnet structure of 14 lines, with an intricate rhyme scheme. A number of his poems
feature a typographically exuberant style, with words, parts of words, or punctuation symbols
scattered across the page, often making little sense until read aloud, at which point the meaning and
emotion become clear. Cummings, who was also a painter, understood the importance of
presentation, and used typography to "paint a picture" with some of his poems.

The seeds of Cummings' unconventional style appear well established even in his earliest work. At
age six, he wrote to his father:

FATHER DEAR. BE, YOUR FATHER-GOOD AND GOOD,


HE IS GOOD NOW, IT IS NOT GOOD TO SEE IT RAIN,
FATHER DEAR IS, IT, DEAR, NO FATHER DEAR,
LOVE, YOU DEAR,
ESTLIN.

Following his autobiographical novel The Enormous Room, Cummings' first published work was a
collection of poems entitled Tulips and Chimneys (1923). This work was the public's first encounter
with his characteristic eccentric use of grammar and punctuation.

Some of Cummings' most famous poems do not involve much, if any, odd typography or punctuation,
but still carry his unmistakable style, particularly in unusual and impressionistic word order.

Cummings' work often does not act in accordance with the conventional combinatorial rules that
generate typical English sentences (for example, "they sowed their isn't"). His readings of Stein in the
early part of the century probably served as a springboard to this aspect of his artistic development.
In some respects, Cummings' work is more stylistically continuous with Stein's than with any other
poet or writer.

In addition, a number of Cummings' poems feature, in part or in whole, intentional misspellings, and
several incorporate phonetic spellings intended to represent particular dialects. Cummings also made
use of inventive formations of compound words, as in "in Just" which features words such as "mud-
luscious", "puddle-wonderful", and "eddieandbill." This poem is part of a sequence of poems entitled
Chansons Innocentes; it has many references comparing the "balloonman" to Pan, the mythical
creature that is half-goat and half-man. Literary critic R.P. Blackmur has commented that this usage
of language is “frequently unintelligible because he disregards the historical accumulation of meaning
in words in favour of merely private and personal associations.”

Many of Cummings' poems are satirical and address social issues but have an equal or even stronger
bias toward romanticism: time and again his poems celebrate love, sex, and the season of rebirth.

Cummings also wrote children's books and novels. A notable example of his versatility is an
introduction he wrote for a collection of the comic strip Krazy Kat.

Controversy
Cummings is also known for controversial subject matter, as he has a large collection of erotic poetry.
In his 1950 collection Xaipe: Seventy-One Poems, Cummings published two poems containing words
that caused an outrage in some quarters.
stars shine at night.
one day a nigger and
caught in his hand a kike is the most dangerous
a little star no bigger machine as yet invented
than not to understand by even yankee ingenu
"i'll never let you go ity(out of a jew a few
until you've made me white" dead dollars and some twisted laws)
so she did and now it comes both prigged and canted

Cummings biographer Catherine Reef notes of the incident:

Friends begged Cummings to reconsider publishing these poems, and the book's editor pleaded with
him to withdraw them, but he insisted that they stay. All the fuss perplexed him. The poems were
commenting on prejudice, he pointed out, and not condoning it. He intended to show how derogatory
words cause people to see others in terms of stereotypes rather than as individuals. "America(which
turns Hungarian into 'hunky' & Irishman into 'mick' and Norwegian into 'square- head')is to blame for
'kike,'" he said.

But readers were still hurt, despite his commentary. Jews, living in the painful aftermath of the
Holocaust, felt his very words were antisemitic, in spite of their purpose. William Carlos Williams
spoke out in his defence.

Plays

During his lifetime, Cummings published four plays. HIM, a three-act play, was first produced in 1928
by the Provincetown Players in New York City. The production was directed by James Light. The
play's main characters are "Him", a playwright, and "Me", his girlfriend. Cummings said of the
unorthodox play:

Relax and give the play a chance to strut its stuff—relax, stop wondering what it is all 'about'—like
many strange and familiar things, Life included, this play isn't 'about,' it simply is. . . . Don't try to enjoy
it, let it try to enjoy you. DON'T TRY TO UNDERSTAND IT, LET IT TRY TO UNDERSTAND YOU."

Anthropos, or the Future of Art is a short, one-act play that Cummings contributed to the anthology
Whither, Whither or After Sex, What? A Symposium to End Symposium. The play consists of
dialogue between Man, the main character, and three "infrahumans", or inferior beings. The word
anthropos is the Greek word for "man", in the sense of "mankind".

Tom, A Ballet is a ballet based on Uncle Tom's Cabin. The ballet is detailed in a "synopsis" as well as
descriptions of four "episodes", which were published by Cummings in 1935. It has never been
performed.

Santa Claus: A Morality was probably Cummings' most successful play. It is an allegorical Christmas
fantasy presented in one act of five scenes. The play was inspired by his daughter Nancy, with whom
he was reunited in 1946. It was first published in the Harvard College magazine the Wake. The play's
main characters are Santa Claus, his family (Woman and Child), Death, and Mob. At the outset of the
play, Santa Claus' family has disintegrated due to their lust for knowledge (Science). After a series of
events, however, Santa Claus' faith in love and his rejection of the materialism and disappointment he
associates with Science are reaffirmed, and he is reunited with Woman and Child.

Names and Capitalization


Cummings's publishers and others have sometimes echoed the unconventional orthography in his
poetry by writing his name in lowercase and without periods, but normal orthography (uppercase and
periods) is supported by scholarship, and preferred by publishers today. Cummings himself used both
the lowercase and capitalized versions, though he most often signed his name with capitals.

The use of lowercase for his initials was popularized in part by the title of some books, particularly in
the 1960s, printing his name in lower case on the cover and spine. In the preface to E. E. Cummings:
the growth of a writer critic Harry T. Moore notes " He [Cummings] had his name put legally into lower
case, and in his later books the titles and his name were always in lower case." According to his
widow, this is incorrect, She wrote of Friedman "you should not have allowed H. Moore to make such
a stupid & childish statement about Cummings & his signature." On 27 February 1951, Cummings
wrote to his French translator D. Jon Grossman that he preferred the use of upper case for the
particular edition they were working on. One Cummings scholar believes that on the rare occasions
that Cummings signed his name in all lowercase, he may have intended it as a gesture of humility,
not as an indication that it was the preferred orthography for others to use.

Critic Edmund Wilson commented "Mr. Cummings’s eccentric punctuation is, also, I believe, a
symptom of his immaturity as an artist. It is not merely a question of an unconventional usage:
unconventional punctuation may very well gain its effect... the really serious case against Mr.
Cummings’s punctuation is that the results which it yields are ugly. His poems on the page are
hideous."

Edward Estlin Cummings's Works:

Books

The Enormous Room (1922)


Tulips and Chimneys (1923) & (1925) (self-published)
XLI Poems (1925)
is 5 (1926)
HIM (1927) (a play)
ViVa (1931)
EIMI (1933) (Soviet travelogue)
No Thanks (1935)
Collected Poems (1960)
50 Poems (1940)
1 × 1 (1944)
XAIPE: Seventy-One Poems (1950)
i—six nonlectures (1953) Harvard University Press
Poems, 1923-1954 (1954)
95 Poems (1958)
73 Poems (1963) (posthumous)
Fairy Tales (1965) (posthumous)
ANALYSIS: SPEAKER
76The speaker never tells us his name, but he does make one thing clear: the dude is totally,
completely, head-over-heels in love. How do we know? Because he talks about it in every line of the
poem. (Yeah, we're perceptive like that.) We can tell that he's kind of a deep guy, though; he's not in
love with this girl for any superficial reasons like mega-hot good looks. Instead, the speaker is
entranced by the deep mysteriousness of her soul. He doesn't quite know who she is, and it's this
mystery that keeps him hooked. (Is this a healthy relationship? We don't know. Go ask Dr. Phil.)
Another interesting thing to think about is the way the speaker constantly refers to his lover opening
and closing him like a flower, as in the lines "you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens/
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose" (7-8). Now, typically, this sort ofimage would be
reserved to describe a female, because women are stereotypically associated with flowers. However,
most critics of the poem always sort of assume that it's a male describing himself in typically feminine
terms. Why would they assume that? It's probably because the poem was written by a dude. At the
time Cummings wrote this—in the 1930s—society was still pretty male-dominated, so the speaker
could be using this gender switch-a-roo to really emphasize the power his lover has over him. What
makes this guy a bit different from the stereotypical dudes of his time is that the power she has over
him only seems to make him love her more.
Where It All Goes Down
This poem isn't set in a specific place, but its imagery definitely makes some beautiful settings sprout
in our minds. There's so much talk about roses that we can't help but imagine a gorgeous garden
that's just bursting with them. It's hard not to with lines like "you open always petal by petal myself as
Spring opens/ (touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose" (7-8). Since it's a passionate love poem,
we're imagining red roses, but, hey, other colors are nice too.
There's also some talk about the seasons in the poem, so we see the speaker and his lover standing
in the garden with time passing around them. When spring comes around, the bright flowers gently
unfold, and when winter comes they quietly close with "the snow carefully descending" around them
(12). The whole time, the speaker stands absolutely still, gazing intently into his lover's mysterious
eyes.
In that way, then, the most steadfast setting of the poem can be understood as the relationship
between the speaker and his lover. It's not only the entirety of the poem's subject matter, it's also the
setting against which the speaker's observations and declarations appear. Love—is there anything
it can't do for us?
ANALYSIS: SOUND CHECK
The speaker takes us on kind of a trippy journey into the eyes of his love. These eyes are deep, too—
like portals into new dimensions. Our journey isn't fast; we sail slowly with the speaker, like we're on
the weirdest Tunnel of Love ride at the most surreal carnival that ever came to town. Yeah, the basic
speed of our journey is slow. Cummings occasionally speeds it up for a sec by blending words
together like "travelled,gladly" (1) and "skilfully,mysteriously" (8). As we hit warp drive for a moment,
we can almost feel reality blurring around us as we head deeper into uncharted territory.
This trek deep into the mysteries of the universe—and the human heart—is helped by Cummings's
constant use of the long O sound. It reminds us a whole lot of the "omm" sound people make when
they're meditating. We also talk about the use of this sound in "Form and Meter," but throughout the
poem, Cummings rhymes words like "enclose" (1.3), "unclose" (2.5), and "rose" (2.8). He also
connects it all with assonance by using "open" and "opens" (2.7). So, all the way through our journey,
we hear the meditative "ohh" sound, which is also a subtle sonic reminder of the sense of awe in our
speaker, too. When's the last time you had a totally awesome experience? We bet that the "Oh"
sound (as in, "Oh, wow!") featured prominently, just as it does in the sound of this poem.
(Note: if you listen to this recording of Cummings himself reading the poem, you can really hear the
rhymes and the poet's own emphasis on sound.)
ANALYSIS: WHAT'S UP WITH THE TITLE?
Like a bunch of other poets, Cummings never gave his poems titles, so editors just use the first line
as the title of each poem. That said, "somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond" seems like a
fitting title to us because the poem takes on such a surreal, yet strangely happy voyage into the weird
world of the speaker and his lover. As a title, and as a first line, this really sets the stage by telling the
readers to buckle their seatbelts. Next stop: the Cummings Zone.
ANALYSIS: CALLING CARD
mr avant: Garde ))))
If you knew anything about Cummings before you started clicking through this guide, you probably
knew that he's the dude who said "whatevs" to capitalization, or at least had a lot of fun breaking the
rules of it. You might've noticed in "somewhere i have never traveled, gladly beyond" that he doesn't
capitalize "i" when the speaker refers to himself. This is a major calling card for Cummings, and many
have scratched their head as to why he chose to do this. Is it a gesture of humility? Maybe, maybe
not. Of course, Cummings doesn't always use lowercase letters, and when he chooses to capitalize a
word it really pops, like in this poem where he capitalizes "Spring"—one of his favorite subjects.
Cummings is also known for getting all avant garde with syntax, warping each sentence into his own
weird world, not really caring if they make sense in a logical way. No mark of punctuation in a
Cummings poem is safe from his experiments either. In "somewhere i have never travelled,gladly
beyond," he does whatever the heck he wants with commas, semicolons, and colons, bending them
all to his unique artistic vision. Cummings also gets crazy with spacing, sometimes spreading words
all over the page to create poems whose visual presentation is just as important as the words
themselves. "somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond" is far from the most drastic example of
this, but you get a taste of it in the way he smooshes words together, like in the title itself. You can
also get more examples of his boldly experimental stylehere and here.

ANALYSIS: TOUGH-O-METER
This poem might be a tougher hike than some because of Cummings's cutting-edge, experimental
techniques, but its familiar subject of love makes it accessible for most. Bring a bottle of water, a
granola bar, and a pair of sturdy boots, but there's no need for an oxygen tank.

SOMEWHERE I HAVE NEVER TRAVELLED, GLADLY BEYOND THEME


OF LOVE
It would be a major understatement to say that the speaker of "somewhere i have never
travelled,gladly beyond" has been pricked by Cupid's arrow of love. It's more like he's been blown
apart by Cupid's love-grenade. Like a lot of love poems, this one amps up the power that the lover
has over its speaker, giving her almost supernatural powers that rival the forces of nature itself. The
piece is also similar to many traditional love poems in that the speaker spends a lot of time talking
about his lover's eyes, and in that the poem uses the well-worn symbol of a rose. In the hands of a
lesser poet, these elements might seem trite, but Cummings is a wordwizard extraordinaire, who can
conjure a classic from clichés.
Questions About Love
1. What popular love poem images and symbols does Cummings choose to use?
2. Do you think that Cummings is successful in reinventing well-worn images, or is this poem just one
cliché after another? Why do you think so?
3. Would you say that the speaker is in a "healthy" relationship? Why or why not? What would Dr. Phil
say? Why?
4. Compare and contrast the way the subject of love is treated in Pablo Neruda's "Love Sonnet 17". How
are the relationships described in the two poems similar and different? What symbols appear in both
poems and how are they used?
Chew on This
Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.
The relationship portrayed in the poem between the speaker and his lover demonstrates a complex
understanding of the human heart in all its unknowable complexities. Deep, right?
The speaker is in a seriously dysfunctional relationship. He needs to get out now—like, right now.
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
Quote #1
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near (1-2)
This line really captures the sort of feverish confusion that love can sometimes cause. All this girl has
to do is twitch a little, and the speaker feels completely surrounded by her presence. What's crazy is
that she feels super-close, but he also feels like he can't touch her. See what we mean by feverish
confusion?
Love
Quote #2
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose (7-8)
Yo, check out Cummings using the clichéd symbol of a rose in a love poem and actually managing to
make it cool. Notice how he flips around gender roles here by making the presumed male speaker the
one who opens like a flower. This makes the erotic imagery that comes along with the image of a
flower opening even more complex.
Love
Quote #3
or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly, (9-10)
In a lot of love poems, you'll hear about how awesome a lover makes a person feel, or how terrible if
it's a break-up poem. Here, though, Cummings pulls a neat trick by making something that's typically
negative—closing off emotionally—into something positive. The speaker seems to enjoy the fact that
his lover has so much control over his emotions.
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
Quote #4
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses (19)
Cummings draws on two big-time love poem clichés, bringing back the symbol of the rose and also
talking about a lover's eyes. In fact, he goes totally nuts with it and blends the two together. He makes
it awesome, though, by messing with our heads a bit, saying that the eyes have a voice and that
roses are deep. These unexpected word choices seem to add a mysteriousness to the poem, which
puts a fresh coat of paint on well-worn images.
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
Quote #1
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me, (3)
The speaker's lover has tons of power over him, but it's not because she smacks him around or
anything. Instead, it's her frailty that attracts him so much. Her control over him isn't physical at all.
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
Quote #4
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing (13-16)
Holy crap, as if this girl didn't already have enough sway over the speaker, she just got even more
powerful. Now her powers are almost godlike. They're beyond anything we can possibly even
conceive of existing on Earth. It sounds a little scary, but the speaker seems happy. Good luck with
that, pal.
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
Quote #1
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond (1)
We get the feeling that we're in for an awesome and amazing trip right from the get go. With this first
line, we almost imagine some space ship, rocketing into some previously unknown dimension. Okay,
we'll admit it. By "some space ship," we mean it reminds us of the opening of Star Trek. There's no
doubt we're about to "boldly go" where no one's gone before.
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
Quote #4
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses) (17-19)
Have you ever stared into a rose? Really deeply? For a long time? Go do it now. No, for real. Go—
and then tell us you aren't awed and amazed.
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
Quote #1
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose (7-8)
The speaker describes the way his lover opens him emotionally to the way spring makes flowers
bloom. Using spring and blooming flowers to represent growing love is definitely no new thing. The
idea is so ingrained in our culture that somebody can talk about love "blossoming" without anybody
even really thinking about flowers.
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
Quote #4
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands (20)
We were talking to the rain yesterday, and she said that everybody is always asking her if she's
offended by this line. She said, "Who cares. What's so weird about small hands?" Clearly, the delicate
fragility of the natural world is what our speaker appreciates here.

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond


E. E. Cummings, 1894 - 1962
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me


though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me,i and


my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals


the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes


and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

SOMEWHERE I HAVE NEVER TRAVELLED, GLADLY BEYOND POWER


QUOTES
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
Quote #1
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me, (3)
The speaker's lover has tons of power over him, but it's not because she smacks him around or
anything. Instead, it's her frailty that attracts him so much. Her control over him isn't physical at all.
Power
Quote #2
your slightest look easily will unclose me (5)
Here again we see that it's the lover's subtleness that gives her the power to open the speaker up at
will. She doesn't have to glare at him. All she has to do is give him a glance.
Power
Quote #3
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose (7-8)
Now the lover is really starting to sound mega-powerful. By comparing her to Spring, the speaker
makes her seem like an irresitable force of nature. Once again, though, her power is subtle. It's not
like Spring goes around slapping flowers until they bloom, right? Instead, they're gently coaxed into
blossoming by rain, sun, and warm weather.
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
Quote #4
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing (13-16)
Holy crap, as if this girl didn't already have enough sway over the speaker, she just got even more
powerful. Now her powers are almost godlike. They're beyond anything we can possibly even
conceive of existing on Earth. It sounds a little scary, but the speaker seems happy. Good luck with
that, pal.

SOMEWHERE I HAVE NEVER TRAVELLED, GLADLY BEYOND MAN


AND THE NATURAL WORLD QUOTES

How we cite our quotes: (Line)


Quote #1
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose (7-8)
The speaker describes the way his lover opens him emotionally to the way spring makes flowers
bloom. Using spring and blooming flowers to represent growing love is definitely no new thing. The
idea is so ingrained in our culture that somebody can talk about love "blossoming" without anybody
even really thinking about flowers.
Man and the Natural World
Quote #2
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending; (10-12)
The speaker doesn't use the word "winter," but once he mentions snow falling, that's of course what
flurries into our minds. Here he uses a simile to compare the way his lover can close him emotionally
to the way a flower closes in cold weather. What's interesting is that the speaker doesn't act like this
is a bad thing. It's like he's in harmony with the power his lover has over him in the same way flowers
are in harmony with the seasons.
Man and the Natural World
Quote #3
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses) (19)
The speaker carries through this whole rose thing here and makes it seem like his lover is more
powerful. It seems like it carries though the whole idea of flowers being in the control of the seasons.
The voice of her eyes is deeper, so it's something that no rose can hold a thorn to.
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
Quote #4
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands (20)
We were talking to the rain yesterday, and she said that everybody is always asking her if she's
offended by this line. She said, "Who cares. What's so weird about small hands?" Clearly, the delicate
fragility of the natural world is what our speaker appreciates here.

SOMEWHERE I HAVE NEVER TRAVELLED, GLADLY BEYOND


QUESTIONS
Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
1. If spring represents when the speaker feels opened emotionally by his love, and winter is when he feels
closed, then what might summer and fall represent?
2. If somebody asked you to compare this poem to the work of transcendentalist poets
likeEmerson or Thoreau, what would you say? No shrugging or "I dunno"s allowed.
3. So, most folks (us included) tend to think of this as a love poem between the speaker and his lover. But
what if it's not? Can you imagine another possible object of affection that the poem could be directed
toward? A newborn child? Poetry, itself? Pick one of your own and explain how it could lead to new
interpretations of the piece.
4. We get a clear picture of how the speaker feels about his love in this poem, but we wonder how she
feels about him. Write a poem (or a letter or an email) where she addresses him and tells him how she
feels. For you brave budding poets: why not try your hand at some of Cummings's avant
garde techniques while you're at it?
5. If the speaker was asked to define love, what to you think he would say? If he were asked to define
what it is not, what would he say? What lines in the poem make you think so?