Thursday, April 3, 2008

Why, I ask you?

Here's a poem that I almost love. Almost. Try to figure out what's holding me back!

Chanson Innocente by e.e. Cummings

In Just-
spring when the world is mud-
lucious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and

it's spring
balloonMan whistles

OK. Let's begin with the obvious. Why does it look like that? I know some times people do that sort of thing for the visual effect. It looks really jaggardy in the book....all the extra spaces between the words do not show here. In the book, there are about 5 extra spaces between the words "Spring" and "when" but they are in the same line. Also about 5 extra spaces between the words "BalloonMan" and "whistles". And the words "and the goat-footed" are stair-stepped. Fancy.
Whether you can appreciate that type of poetry or not, you have to wonder what kind of effect e.e. was going for when he chose to write the poem in this funky fashion? Ok, scroll down...

This is how looks in the book.

Does this work for anyone? I'm just not feeling it.
On a positive note, what I really liked is that this poem has some great descriptions, like "In just-spring, when the world is mud-lucious....when the world is puddle-wonderful..." But then here comes a "little lame balloonman whistling far and wee..." er...what is that? Is a little lame man whistling and weeing while he sells balloons? Does he do this every spring? What is wee in this poem? If it's "wide", couldn't the author have just said "far and wide?" I could keep going on this for while, but there's soooo much more to cover!
What about "eddieandbill" ? Does anyone know what the heck that is about? Is writing the names "Eddie and Bill" too normal? Or not poetic enough? Or are we to assume that Eddie and Bill are inseperable because their names are written as one? I guess, right? I guess that's sort of cute. Or lame. I'm seeing siamese twins. Whatever. Eddie and Bill are "running from marbles and piracies...." I love that! I can see that because my boys play marbles and pirates alot.
Moving along in the poem, we learn the whistling, weeing balloon salesman is also queer and old. Well, we knew he was queer, he's whistling and weeing. Maybe he thinks he can get away with it because he's old. Anyway...
Now here come "bettyandisbel"? I say again, why? Why no capital letters? And why is that bad grammar but good poetry?
Soooooo, Betty and Isbel "come dancing from hopscotch and jumprope." Well, we dance ALOT here at the Roberts house! And the kids play alot of hopscotch, so I've got great images in my mind. Until...we learn that the lame, queer old man is also goat-footed.


So, now I'm no longer even envisoning a man with balloons, I just see a goat. An old male goat weeing on himself to attract the ladies. (yes, they really do that, and why on earth it works is beyond me.) Then the thought occurs to me, maybe he's not selling ballons, maybe he gives people rides in a hot air balloon. You think? If that's that case I certainly hope he's not weeing, whether he's a goat or man. Also, please note that he is now a balloonMan. Capital M. Unlike eddieandbill and bettyandisbel.

And then the poem ends. With the word "wee".

Call me shallow, but I don't get it. I could have loved this poem, if only it was "wide" and not "wee". I could've even gotten past the goat-footed thing. Sigh!


Elysa said...

Well, you're a lot deeper than I am. The only thing that bugged me was with all that mud my kids were going to be a MESS!!!!

Rhonda Jeanne said...

No, if I was deep, I might know what "wee" means.

Wyatt Roberts said...

Uh...maybe he's like Mr. Tumnus in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, except instead of a package he has balloons, and a bottle of scotch.

Rhonda Jeanne said...

YES! Mr. Tumnus! I think you're right!

heather collins said...

wow, I just did a presentation on ee cummings so I hope I can help...
1)the weird spacing is meant to direct your attention naturally to certain words or phrases, don't try so hard to read it the first time.
2)"far and wee" is an old phrase out of some nursery rhymes and children's stories. this is supposed to appeal to children.
3)you guys were closer the first time with the balloonman. he sells balloons and he's there every spring.
4)the most important part is the goat-footed balloonMan. This is meant to be discovered later about him. goat-footed refers to Pan. Look him up. He's a symbol of lust and lost innocence.

now let me ask you this to sum up...
why would a lust hungry symbol of lost innocence be wistling in a park around children and trying to sell them balloons. dig deep.

Rhonda Jeanne said...

Thanks for clearing it up, and may I say "eeew YUK!" Man, what a wacko! What IS it with this guy and parks? I read another poem by him about parks that mentioned statues and other things. I'm sort of freaked out by this.