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A Way With Words
ee cummings' poems are full of striking and unusual imagery. He has a fascinating way of using words in unusual ways to bring a vivid image to the reader’s mind. Students are typically enchanted by the poems of ee cummings as they are so different from other types of poetry. The poems of ee cummings also have very strong rhythm; this delights students.
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"i thank you"
In his poem “I thank you” he uses the phrase “leaping greenly spirits of trees.” His language brings forth images that make the reader think. This phrase uses personification and imagery. It is fascinating to ask students what images come to mind when they hear phrases used by ee cummings.Their answers are usually very creative.
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"i carry your heart with me"
In this poem, cummings uses the phrase “whatever a sun will always sing is you.” This is another example of imagery and personification. Ask students what actions they associate with the sun. Can they imagine the sun singing? Is the mood of joyful singing the same mood the sun gives them? Ask the class why they think the author used this imagery.
In this poem he also speaks of the “wonder that’s keeping the stars apart.” This unusual imagery usually intrigues students as they have never before wondered why the stars are separated in the sky. The poems of ee cummings typically induce very lively class discussion about the meaning of and reasons for the imagery.
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"she being brand new"
The poem “she being brand new” is a poem that even typically poetry-aversive boys like; it is about a car. He refers to a street called “Divinity Avenue.” This imagery is interesting in that it helps students understand how a single word, divinity, can bring such a strong image to mind. Ask students what kind of street would deserve the name of divinity? Then ask them to create three street names that would have special meaning to them and that also contain imagery. Ask volunteers to describe their street names and tell what the imagery means to them.
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After a general discussion of the imagery in poems give out sample poems by ee cummings and ask students to highlight the imagery they see. Assess how well they are understanding the concept of imagery by asking each student to list one example of imagery they found and describe its impact on the overall poem.
Continue the assessment process by asking students to first brainstorm three ideas for imagery and then use that imagery in a poem they create. The poem may be on any topic and may have any mood as long as appropriate for school.
Students are usually delighted with the poems of ee cummings. Discussing his creativity usually helps students build a much deeper appreciation of poetry and the use of imagery.
Once they have read the poems of ee cummings, the poems they write are much more imaginative and unique.
“100 Selected Poems” by ee cummings, Grove Weidenfeld, New York, 1959.