This poem, published in the collection ViVa, illustrates the influence of the modernist experimentation of such poets as Ezra POUND and T. S. ELIOT on E. E. CUMMINGS and exemplifies the poet’s fusion of exuberant typographical and grammatical play, a painterly exploration of imagery, and spare lyricism. While ViVa demonstrates Cummings’s increasingly idiosyncratic and anarchic poetics and marks his emergence as a crucial player in bringing to American poetry the questioning and experiments of European literary and visual art, “somewhere” combines formal radicalism with gentle lyricism and shows the exquisite balance of Cummings’s best poetry.
The world of this poem is associative in its understated metaphors and mobile in its shifting between images. A self is a flower, fingers are petals, and fragility is “intense.” The poem is about the courage of a joyous trust. Eyes have voices, roses depth, and the rain is delicate handed. This imagery shows the influence of SURREALISM and evokes the sensation of the blurring of self and other that the delights of early love bring. Boundaries collapse, and the self merges with both the beloved and the world, especially the natural world. The experience of “I,” the poem’s speaker, is of the fear and exhilaration of loving. The poem whirls ina celebration of wonder and risk, refusing stasis andcaution—a song to vitality.
Cummings called the revolutionary “i” of his poemsthe “non-hero” (quoted in Kennedy 175). Here “i” isparadoxical: Although far from the brash hero of classicaland romantic love poetry, nevertheless “I,” a vulnerablyopen lover, is heroic in embracing the risks ofloving. The poem’s economical diction reinforces this,juxtaposing fragility and power: The “most fragile gesture”can “enclose” the speaker; the “slightest look” can“unclose” him. The texture of fragility is eloquent andcompelling, and it has depth as well as delicacy. Fromits overarching metaphor of the closed self openingand shutting, other connections ripple outwardthrough metaphor: A self closed “as fingers” is“unclosed” one petal at a time by the lover’s look andis thus also compared with the rosebud, opened byspring’s persuasion.
The poem’s punctuation defies standard grammar,reaching to express less rational connections. In thepoem “since feeling is first,” Cummings’s ideas aboutgrammar are suggested through the metaphor of puttingaside “the syntax of things” to experience life morefully. Cummings, pulled from childhood toward paintingas well as poetry, finds the expression of each wordmaximized by its placement. The silences betweenwords invest simple term with great care. The poem“somewhere i have never travelled” avoids excess andhas a simplicity in its diction and an unflinching emotionalopenness. In true modernist form, its hallmarksare questing and experimentation, and it shows a revitalizationof form and theme.
Norman Freidman. E. E. Cummings: The Art of His Poetry.Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1964.
Kennedy, Richard S. Dreams in the Mirror: A Biography ofE. E. Cummings. New York: W. W. Norton, 1980.
Felicity Plunkett