Thursday, 9 December 2010

'Grasshopper', by e. e. cummings

I have sent this around as an email already, but I know some of you don't always get my emails, and posting it here will allow you to discuss it, should you want to. A couple of you were asking about poems (rather than manifestoes) that use typographical experimentation. This is one of my favourites, by the American poet, e. e. cummings:

If you are confused, look at the poem's last word for a clue to the subject. If you know what a grasshopper is (and how it moves) you can begin to read this poem!

I'd be very interested to know what you think. You can see a very useful selection of critical interpretations of the poem here, but make up your own minds before seeing what the critics say.

Cummings was another American poet who came to Europe and was involved in the First World War, and lived in Paris in the 1920s. He was also a painter and met Pablo Picasso, and was influenced in his poetry (like so many others) by Ezra Pound. He is a strange mix of the avant-garde and the traditionalist - some of his poetry is quite traditional, and his use of nature in his poems especially is in some ways close to that of the Romantics.


  1. own comment before reading critics: "PPEGORHRASS", which is a displaced version for "grasshopper" flashes on the page at first sight like it is the headline. then letters make you trace a word. the first one that makes sense is "who" and the next one is ",grasshopper" which is the last word of poem. so we have "who? and "grasshopper". cummings makes it like a crossword puzzle, and puts references into text/image. also form of the poem reflects it's content with descending and bouncing letters. very smart.

  2. It would be also interesting to look at The Ivy Crown by William Carlos Williams.

  3. and, about the poem: it is a crypto. words hidden inside and scaterred, just like the movement of the grasshopper.

  4. ok. last comment:)
    i thouhgt of another poem by Cummings, which i could not remember when i suggested to read The Ivy Crown. I just found it out and wanted to share with those of you who found the Grasshopper interesting. Have a look at "ygUDuh". I like that one, it is crazy! (I wonder how Bernard Shaw would react to this poem as a person interested in phonetics:) )

    Here is the poem:



    ydoan o
    yunnuhstand dem
    yguduh ged

    yunnuhstan dem doidee
    yguduh ged riduh
    ydoan o nudn

    LISN bud LISN


    lidl yelluh bas
    tuds weer goin


  5. it took me long to gather the sentence because he keeps putting grasshoper here and there and at first it didnt make any sense this poem looks very much like the manifestos we have been looking at you know weird typing style and fireworks in black and white yet i cannot say that this is the most impressing poem i have ever read he is displaying some show on page so what* this is not the first time we are seeing a picture and a poem interwoven so it is not that smart to use the typing trick i do not know what you guys think is so funny about this piece

    The ygUDuh poem is a lot better i loved it THANK YOU FOR SHARING Selver (typed on purpose t catch attention )P actually i found it smarter to type as if he is writing in a dialect so what does the poem says lets translate it to our english

    you don(t)

    you dont know
    you no(t)understand them
    you don(t) get

    you no(t) understand them do you
    you dont get rid of
    you dont know nothing



    little yellow bas * i dunnow w hat a bas is
    tuds we are going

    dont civilize them

  6. Glad you lied it. it is fun to read it and find out what it says. i lik this poem very much. and about your poem i can suggest this:

    you wrote:
    "little yellow bas * i dunnow w hat a bas is
    tuds we are going

    dont civilize them"

    i think it may be:
    "little yellow bastards
    we are going"

  7. Grasshopper is a great poem. I found this blog while looking for an image of the poem since I have to speak about it today and needed a digital version to project on screen for the audience to follow me. If you know spanish I would be glad to share what I will be reading today. Let me know.

    Tania (Bogotá, Colombia)

  8. Hi everyone, I found this blog while looking for an interpretation of the poem I will be, no in terms of its content, but its form. Any ideas? I would be glad to read your opinions.