Department of English

Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University

2202242  Introduction to the Study of English Poetry



Assignment 3 Discussion


General Comments:

  • You need to answer the question!  There is tendency to relay information you have read on the internet about Blake, his Songs of Innocence, Cummings, and "in Just-" to the extent that you don't focus enough on answering the question.  I want your ideas, not somebody else's.  I want you to close read "in Just-," not give a summary of Blake's poetical works or a paraphrase of various criticism on Cummings.

  • Work on citing relevant text to give evidence to your ideas and incorporating quotes smoothly into your own prose.

  • Comma splice seems to be a common problem this time.

  • Avoid using informal words. (Ex. really, a lot, kids, too)

  • Avoid using contractions. (Ex. they're, it's)


Read the following poem and answer the questions that follow.



in Just-


E. E. Cummings



in Just-
spring      when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman
whistles      far      and wee 5
and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's
when the world is puddle-wonderful 10
the queer
old balloonman whistles
far      and      wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope and 15
goat-footed 20
balloonMan      whistles


"in Just-" Notes

Later Cummings wrote that the balloonman expressed "a hint of youth and Norton's Woods" and that the poem was about spring in Cambridge, Mass. (Selected Letters of E. E. Cummings, ed. F. W. Dupee and George Stade (New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World, 1969): 70-71, 233.) (RPO)


Norton's Woods

Only a butterfly's glide from my home began a mythical domain of semiwilderness; separating cerebral Cambridge and orchidaceous Somerville. Deep in this magical realm of Between stood a palace containing Harvard University's far-famed Charles Eliot Norton. & lowly folk, who were neither professors nor professors' children, had nick-named the district Norton's Woods. Here, as a very little child, I first encountered that mystery who is Nature here my enormous smallness entered Her illimitable being; and here someone actually infinite or impossibly alive--someone who might almost (but not quite) have been myself—-wonderingly wandered the mortally immortal complexities of Her beyond imagining imagination (Parekh 64)



1.  (5 points)  This poem begins the section called “Chansons Innocentes” in Tulips & Chimneys (1922).  How does Cummings convey innocence differently from Blake? (Reviewing the coursebook’s Rhythm section should help you think about creative typographical aspects of the poem.)


Comments: Most of you were so caught up in the secondary material researched that you lost sight of what is being asked.  The question asks you to look at innocence, not growing up or adulthood or losing innocence.  Many of you also do not give examples to illustrate or substantiate your points.


Your answer should discuss 1) the different ways Cummings conveys the idea or the sense of innocence in the poem, and 2) how these techniques differ from Blake's.


Does not answer the question, states an already understood fact, gives no new information:


In the poem “in Just-”, Cummings conveys innocence differently from Blake.


How to fix this problem:

  • delete the sentence

  • don't write such sentences in the first place


2.  (5 points)  The balloonman has been variously interpreted as a satyr, Pan, Peter Pan, the Pied Piper, a bringer of toys, a sign of spring, a pedophile, among others.  Is he an ironic presence amid the sounds of spring?  What are your thoughts on the meaning and function of the balloonman in this poem?


Comments: Your discussion should include the sounds of spring and the meaning and function of the balloonman within that context.  I am not looking for definitions of a satyr, Pan, Peter Pan, or the Pied Piper.








E. E. Cummings





Some books on E. E. Cummings at Chula

Kidder, Rushworth M.  E. E. Cummings: An Introduction to the Poetry.  New York: Columbia UP, 1979. (Arts PS3505.U334 K46E)


Lane, Gary.  I Am: A Study of E. E. Cummings' Poems.  Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1976. (Arts PS3505.U334 L265I)


Other critical writings on E. E. Cummings

Alfandary, Isabelle.  "Voice and Silence in E. E. Cummings' Poetry."  Spring 9 (2000): 36-43.


Cureton, Richard D.  "E. E. Cummings: A Study of the Poetic Use of Deviant Morphology."  Poetics Today 1.1-2 (1979): 213-44.


Landles, Iain.  "An Analysis of Two Poems by E. E. Cummings."  Spring 10 (2001): 31-43.


Mills, Ralph J., Jr.  "The Poetry of Innocence: Notes on E. E. Cummings."  The English Journal 48.8 (1959): 433-42.


Parekh, Pushpa N.  "Nature in the Poetry of E. E. Cummings."  Spring 3 (1994): 63-71.


Paz, Octavio.  "E. E. Cummings."  The Siren and the Seashell.  Trans. Lysander Kemp and Margaret Sayers Peden.  Austin: U of Texas P, 1976. 131-136.


Terblanche, Etienne.  "The Osmotic Mandala: On the Nature of Boundaries in E. E. Cummings' Poetry."  Spring 10 (2001): 9-22.


Webster, Michael.  "E. E. Cummings: The New Nature Poetry and the Old."  Spring 9 (2000): 109-24.


Welch, Michael Dylan.  "The Haiku Sensibilities of E. E. Cummings."  Spring 4 (1995): 95-120.

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Last updated February 15, 2008