Many of his poems are about his experiences in World War I. After the war, young people his age in France, England, and America had the type of reaction to war that we currently call "Vietnam Syndrome." In both cases, the war was bogged down and seemed meaningless. For cummings in particular, the war seemed absurd. The French allies threw him in jail for the "crime" of writing letters home criticizing the French. So this was how he spent "the war to end all wars," "the war to make the world safe for democracy." Where was the freedom he was supposed to be fighting for? Can you understand how cummings developed a critical attitude toward war jingoism and toward advertising in general?
He mostly wrote in an experimental style. He usually attacked on depersonalized, commercial, and exploitative mass culture. Mass culture means making everybody the same. Cummings reflects the culture of advertisement. He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His father was a Congregationalist minister and teacher at Harvard. Cummings was a New England poet with some connections with the Puritans strains. Cummings was known for not using punctuation marks properly and sometimes not capitalizing the words. In his poems, there are a lot of gaps and short sentences.
The style of cummings' poetry reflects his use of the technology of
the day. His poems look like the sort of thing one gets by playing
with a typewriter. Imagine what he would have done with a
modern word processor & all those fonts, sizes, & styles.
MY SWEET OLD ETCETERA
MY SWEET OLD ETCETERA my sweet old etcetera aunt lucy during the recent war could and what is more did tell you just what everybody was fighting for, my sister isabel created hundreds (and hundreds)of socks not to mention shirts fleaproof earwarmers etcetera wristers etcetera, my mother hoped that i would die etcetera bravely of course my father used to become hoarse talking about how it was a privilege and if only he could meanwhile my self etcetera lay quietly in the deep mud et cetera (dreaming, et cetera, of Your smile eyes knees and of your Etcetera)
This poem reflects cummings' attitude toward WWI. While
The Children were playing marbles when and they heard the whistle of the balloon man. After seeing the balloon man, the children ran toward him to get the balloon. The word "goat-footed" is associated with the devil. The meaning of the word "goat-footed" does not related to this poem.
Cummings is addressing to the earth. He is saying to the earth that the philosophers have tried to understand the complexity of the earth. Science also has to figure the nature of earth. The only things earth would say to us are "spring follows winter and life follows death". Science, philosophy, and religion are all seeking their answer in mother earth.
Olaf is a conscientious objector. Olaf would not fight in a war. In those days, being a conscientious objector was a terrible. Cummings considers Olaf a brave person. Olaf was like Thoreau, because he refused to give taxes that would support the Mexican-American war. Olaf and Thoreau are both eccentric individuals. They are the exception of society. They do not go along with the rest of the people. Olaf was beaten with scrub brushes meanwhile the colonel was observing it. In line 17, "upon what God unto him gave," means that Olaf was left naked. In line 20, the colonel has left. Olaf was a better man than we are because he was not afraid to die for what he believed.