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No doubt, E. E. Cummings was a rebel. Even before he made his name as a poet, he was rubbing authority figures the wrong way. One famous story happened during World War I, when Cummings was volunteering as an ambulance driver in France. Cummings got annoyed with all the rules and started sending coded messages back home just to see if anybody would notice. They noticed, alright, and Cummings got locked up in an internment camp under suspicion that he might be a traitor and a spy. He actually wrote a novel about the whole experience called The Enormous Room. (Click here for more of the deets on Cummings's crazy life story.)
Cummings's wartime rabble rousing was nothing compared to what he was soon to unleash on the literary world. See, our rebel-poet was also a painter and became really inspired by Modernist art movements like Surrealism and Cubism, which exploded the rules of traditional painting. Cummings didn't see any reason why poetry couldn't recreate itself just as radically as the world of art was doing at the time. So he brewed up a signature style that thumbed its nose at traditional rules of poetry and took the form into new dimensions. Of course, you can't expect to go around breaking a bunch of rules without ticking some people off. Some critics accused Cummings of being weird for weird's sake, while others seemed to think that he just had no idea how to write a "real" poem.
Like all his other work, "somewhere i have never traveled, gladly beyond," first published in his collection ViVa (1931), caught flak for Cummings's experimental use of punctuation, spacing, and capitalization—all part of Cummings's signature style. The joke's on Cummings's critics, though. Whatever bad press this poem has gotten, today it's hands down one of his most popular (ranking right up there with "in Just"). It also just so happens to be one on the most beloved love poems of all time, so nyah nyah. In general, Cummings was like, "Whatevs" to his critics, standing by his work. In his own words, "Nothing measurable can be alive; nothing which is not alive can be art; nothing which cannot be art is true: and everything untrue doesn't matter a very good God damn" (Cummings, A Miscellany Revisited).
Love is complicated. We mean really complicated. Sometimes it makes you feel awesome. Sometimes it makes you feel like something you might find at the bottom of your garbage disposal. What's amazing about " somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond" by E. E. Cummings is that it takes all the extremes of love into account and somehow finds the beauty in them. Both the highs and the lows are part of the appeal for the speaker.
Now, maybe you've never been in love (although chances are you will be someday). Even if you've never experienced romantic love, though, chances are you love something or somebody in some way. Maybe it's your parents, or a friend, or your dog, or some Zen-like mixture of yogurt and toppings at Pinkberry. No matter what it is, there're highs and lows, and this poem manages to capture the un-capturable way that there's beauty in both.
(Oh, and if you think that Pinkberry part was a stretch, then you've just never had the right combo of yogurt and delicious toppings—just sayin'.)
E. E. Cummings Society
Take a tour of the website of this group dedicated to Cummings and all his awesomeness.
The great Cummings bio that this link takes you to is only the tip of the iceberg for this site that's packed with awesome information on poets and their poems.
Here's a video of a beach, with the poem running across the lapping waves.
We Need a Montage
This vid sets the poem against some artistic photographs and soothing piano.
In His Own Voice
You really have to watch this video, which uses a recording of Cummings himself reading the poem. Just do it.
Here's a serious-sounding reading against some photos that remind us of Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie (which uses a quote from the poem as the epigraph).
The Man Himself
Here's a picture of our poet:
Yeah, he was an artist too. This is what he thought he looked like.
Lookin' Good, E. E.
We asked him if we could borrow this outfit, but he said no.
Cummings Interviews Himself
Not only is this "interview" a riot, it's also a good look into Cummings's opinions about the ways that, in the end, poetry, art and life are all really the same thing.
Cummings: Rebel with a Cause
Check out this great biographical article on Cummings from Harvard Magazine.
Take a peek at the poetry collection that the poem was originally in.
Go for it. Check out the whole kit and kaboodle.
Somewhere I Have Never Traveled: The Movie
This Taiwanese movie about a high school aged boy and his niece borrows its title from Cummings' poem.
Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town (1967)
Star Wars fans, take note! George Lucas once directed a movie based upon a Cummings poem.