Poetry Explication – Next to of Course God America By Edward Cummings

An explication of  Edward Cummings’, “next to of course god america”

Edward Estlin Cummings was a  classified as a modernist poet because he wrote his poems in a style that was new, unique and highly innovative. Infact, what set him apart from other poets was actually the way he wrote his poems. A common characteristic of many modernist was doing away with rhyme including meter and embracing free verse as a peculiar style of writing their poems. Cummings embraced free verse but also injected a style that was highly visual in his poetic works. The way he laid out his poetry on paper was very critical just as he uniquely capitalization and punctuation. When one reads Cummings poem, what emrges is the unique form and structure that cleary sets him apart from other poets.

A formalistic and structuralistic approach to Edward cummings,’ “next to of course god america.”

This paper seeks to look at the form and structure of Edward Cummingss,’“next to of course god america” and how it determines the content of his poem which is a sonnet. A sonnet is usually a closed form and these closed forms of poems  usually have structures  and stylistic conventions that  which are usually structural and convey units of meaning or conventions of rhyme, meter or expression. The general objective of the paper thus is to find out how form and structure contribute to overall meaning of the poem.

Read also “How it will End” By Denise Duhamel’s – Poetry Explication

Edward Cummings,’ “next to of course god america” is a Petrachan sonnet named after Francesco Petrarca who popularised the form by writing 366 sonnets about his love for a woman Lara. Petrarchan sonnets are well known for dealing with love as the subject matter but it has other specific forms and other features.

One of Cummings’ unique techniques is the erratic pinctuation and capitalization. Only two lines end in punctuation that is lines 13 and 14. Words are also merged (“deafanddump”) and other words are broken with hyphenation at the end of a line (“beaut-“)

The poem is structurally Petrarchan especially in rhyme scheme and volta placement. The rhyme scheme is essentially an octet (ababcdcd) and what follows is a sestet (efgfeg), and this follows the italian form. The volta  otherwise known as turn is available on line 9 where theres the question, “why talk of beauty” is asked, which ideally follows the normal placement of the turn in in an Italian sonnet. The placement of the last line separate from the others is however not traditional.

This poem deviates in a big way fro the sonnet when it comes to rhythm and meter of this poem. Several lines follow the the traditonal iambic pentameter rhythm and meter. These are lines 6, 9, 10, 12, 13. In lines 5, 7, 11, and 14. These lines end with what we call a feminine rhyme, adding extra syllable which is acceptable in traditional sonnets. However, line 1 for example cannot be made iambic by normal reading of the words. Line 3 uses what is called a dactylic rhythm while line 4 starts trochaic and then ends in iambic. The last line which is line 14 starts with two iambs but concludes with four trochees hence resulting in a mixed hexameter line.

Fromthe above, it is clear that these poemin terms of structure it uses the traditional Petrarchan sonnet structure but there are violations  when it comes to the rules regarding punctuation, capitalization rhythm and meter.

When looking at alll the above the question that remains is if the form and sructure of the above poem have helped put across the intended message by the poet. Typically, the octave of the Petrarchan sonnet sets up a question and the sestet attempts to answer it. This shift in the subject matter is called the volta and it is a key characteristic of Petrarchan sonnets. Cummings’ poem is divided into twosections only. The first thirteen lines are spoken by a voice possibly a politician. What he says apparently comes out in a gush. The last line comes out as a complete contrast and acts therefore is seen as a kind of a let down. This last line is sort of an answer and it is important because it brings into light the reality of dissent.

This form and structure therefore aid the poet achieve his objective and that is probably why he used such type of sonnet. The eccentricities pointed out in the as can be seen accurately match the rambling content on the persona in the poem as he delivers the sarcstic patriotic rant. In summary therefore, this paperconcludes the follwing:

  • The form of the poem shows that the poet and not the speaker appears to be in conrol: the words of the speaker are ungrammaticaland are placed into a traditional sonnet form
  • The sonnet form is much stronger than the ability of the speaker to speak and even breaks up the speaker’s wordsin line 9 to imply that the spesker does not necassarily mean what he says.
  • The poor grammar and lack of punctuation and even the use of lower case brings down the high ideals of ‘god,’ ‘america’ and even ‘liberty.’
  • The structure show that the poem is about political rhetoric. The first 13 lines are a mere gush of words that are intended to sound good but the last line clearly indicate lack of sincerity.

The form and structure of a poem are therefore very important elements of poetry because they help the poet communicate.

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