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Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Colors of Words

Most wordplay in poetry is aural. The poet plays with the sounds of words, their rhymes and rhythms and meters. Those poems are best read out loud.

But some wordplay is visual. The poet plays with the look of words, their spelling or their place on the page. These poems are best read in silence.

The most notable of the visual poets is e. e. cummings. The topography, the design on the page, helps carry the meaning of many of his poems. Sometimes he pushes words together, with no space between them, or breaks up a word. Sometimes he ignores the necessary capitalization. At other times he uses punctuation marks almost as words.

maybe god

is a child
’s hand)very carefully
to you and to
me(and quite with
out crushing)the

papery weightless diminutive

with a hole in
it out
of which demons with wings would be streaming if
something had(maybe they couldn’t
agree)not happened(and floating-
ly int


~ e. e. cummings (1894-1962), American poet, painter and essayist

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