in Just-
in Just-
by E.E. Cummings

Sound Check

Read this poem aloud. What do you hear?

Sometimes this poem sounds like a little kid standing on the edge of a playground, jumping up and down because he’s sooooo excited that it’s finally time to play summer games. His language is as simple as a normal kid’s vocabulary would be – and, like any excited kid, he talks at 200 mile per hour. "eddieandbill" and "bettyandisobel" seem to voice their own excitement at the arrival of the balloonman.

Then again, the poem throws enough curveballs to keep it from being a complete trip to kiddie-land. Some are more subtle than others: inserting long vowels like the "e" in "wee" or the "o" and "a" in "balloonman," for example, slows the poem down oh-so-subtly. We might not even notice that we’re no longer talking at the pace of an excited child…but we’re not. Words like "mud-luscious" may follow the crazy grammatical rules of a small child (i.e., no rules at all), but the word "luscious" isn’t really something that you hear most five-year-olds saying too often. With all these slowings and complications, the poem seems to be…well, playing with us. Almost like it’s the balloonman himself.

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