Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Shape: dying is fine)but Death by E.E. Cummings

dying is fine)but Death


wouldn't like

Death if Death

when(instead of stopping to think)you

begin to feel of it,dying
's miraculous

cause dying is

perfectly natural;perfectly
it mildly lively(but


is strictly
& artificial &

evil & legal)

we thank thee
almighty for dying
(forgive us,o life!the sin of Death

In another infamous E.E. Cummings shape poems, he addresses death versus dying and how they both have completely different meanings. In the title dying is fine)but Death, Cummings first introduces the topic of dying being different than death. He explains that death begins when everyone is born. It is a natural process that is constantly happening throughout ones life. "dying 's miraculous why?be cause dying is perfectly natural;perfectly putting it mildly lively," meaning dying throughout life is "lively."Cummings views this process of dying, as natural in comparison to the final act of death, "Death is strictly scientific & artificial & evil & legal)." Believing "the sin of Death" to be an un-natural phenomenon that occurs alien to the act of dying.

The shape of the poem looks like a bunch of tiny hills or mountains, like the natural path of ones life, full of bumps to overcome. The stanza "?0 baby i" although the middle part of a thought in the poem, i interpreted this (especially since its at the beginning) as the beginning of a persons life as a literal baby. Then, progressing through the years the sentence structure grows into a hill at "when(instead of stopping to think)you begin to feel of it,dying " and then another question is pose "why?", like there is an actual person who Cummings is addressing while watching them grow and "die" essentially. Kind of like a mid-life crisis of the eternal question "Everyone is dying, how do I make my life meaningful and enjoy it?" The next bump includes the census that dying is "lively" relating the act of enjoying life towards the end of it. When the final bump comes it isn't fully formed, showing how death comes sudden and stops the dying in its natural process. By the final half bump, the poems message is fully explained and the final line "we thank thee god almighty for dying (forgive us,o life!the sin of Death" alludes to the religous and the symbolic persons final thoughts at deaths door. Ultimately praying that the evilness of Death won't kill them the way the "lively" dying was.

**I found this band Ra Ra Riot, that has a song called "Dying is Fine" and they quote a lot from E.E. Cummings poem. Here's their website where you can listen to it for free and it explains their reasons for writing the song,


tarotbyparis said...

The company that holds the rights to this may request that you pull this down, but meanwhile, I thank you for this. My mother just passed away; she was a friend of cummings and I wanted to use this poem at her memorial. Your analysis is pretty much spot on, btw.

Coyote Z said...

I would add a few points to your interpretation of one of my favorite Cummings poem.

Cummings often juxaposes nouns and verbs, disapproving of the noun but approving of the verb. A noun for an intricate process like death is an attempt to reduce that complexity to something we can label and analyze.

I would refer you to the forward he wrote for his book of poems "is 5" in which he says, "If a poet is anybody, he is somebody to whom things made matter very little--somebody who is obsessed by Making."

Lanny Buettner

Mainframeguy said...

my father has just died and requested this also - thanks for posting it and thanks for doing so faithfully to Cummings typography (I presume!)

Jack Lindsay said...

i think that you need to mention that this is two separate poems: the one inside the parenthesis (on death) and the one outside (on dying). I think the hills/valleys interpretation is a load of crap.