Today’s poem, to brighten up a dreary October Friday, is ‘somewhere i have never travelled’ by e. e. cummings. Try to read it slowly, preferably aloud, or at least moving your lips and pretending, not worrying about what it means, but really savouring the sound and shape of each word, like you’re sipping an expensive wine or whisky… for free!
‘somwhere i have never travelled’
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 color 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
e. e. cummings
As a teenager, when I first began to discover poetry, I was instantly attracted to e. e. cummings, with his funny name and glorious disregard for the rules of spelling, grammar, everything! This poem, in comparison with many of his others, is actually quite conventional. Still, there’s a childlike innocence and playfulness about his use of lower case which implies sincerity. The eccentric spacing of punctuation creates a similar effect: it’s as if the words are drawn together,want to touch,can’t bear to be apart.
But despite this closeness, and the undoubted intimacy of the poem, there remains a sense of distance and mystery. The lover’s eyes are ‘somewhere i have never travelled’ – and, we might add, could never travel – ‘gladly beyond any experience’. In ‘your most frail gesture’ are ‘things’ which enclose. Things? What things? No thing ‘we can perceive in this world’ and yet some thing that is important, even essential, ‘deeper than all roses’. Never travelled. Beyond. Cannot touch. It’s like cummings himself is trying to say what lies beyond words, too deep for language, or at least for ordinary language. In the last stanza, which suddenly begins to rhyme, are two statements:
I do not know.
Something in me understands.
To me that sums up much of cummings’s poetry. I do not know exactly what he means, but something in me understands. It makes no sense at all, but it makes all the sense in the world. Hmm. Very interested to read your thoughts on this one. Do leave a comment, even if it’s strange and silly and breaks all the rules.