Form in poetry is used to mean how a poet has expressed his/her work. It involves the number of lines the poet has written his work, the structure and how he has used syllables and the use of rhyme scheme. On the other hand, content is basically what the poet wishes to express to the readers. Sometimes it can be identified with the themes expressed in the poem. The content and form in a poem have various connections and the two are interlinked to reveal the meaning of the poem. This paper analyze the poem Buffalo bills by E.E. Cummings paying attention specifically to the form and content of the poem and how the two have been used to reveal the meaning of the poem.
Most of the E.E. Cummings poems become very difficult to understand at the first reading unless one reads it more than once to get the actual content of the poem. One might not be very sure of the content of the poem from reading the first lines of the poems alone; one has to read the entire poem to get conversant with the poems content. Buffalo bills is one of his famous poetic works in the 20th century. Literature acts as the mirror to the society and what the work of literature shows is actually what happens in the society; it reflects the vices in the society. Cummings works is a little different from most of the poets of his period; however, he expresses the same vices those other poets expressed but through different and unique form.
Most of his poems do not have titles and the poem Buffalo Bills is named after the first line of the poem. The poem talks of something that is dead or no longer functioning/operational. The poem is basically about a buffalo bill as Cummings referred to the main character in the poem that was famous and successful but died. He uses buffalo bills as a representation of the person in an American society. Buffalo Bills rode in horse riding competition in the Wild West together with his fellow contestants. He became famous during the competition of riding on the horse while shooting the clay pigeons in the air. As Cummings describes him, Buffalo Bills was a famous man full of life and energy and liveliness. Cummings gives Buffalo Bills all the good and admirable personalities that one could admire. Buffalo Bills dies in the end despite the good life he has lived with fame and popularity.
Cummings has used various words to hide the actual meaning of the poem initially. One must first understand the form; stylistic features the poet has used in order to depict the content of the poem (Robert et al, 2010). When one reads through the poem beginning with the first lines Buffalo Bills, defunct one may not be able to identify what the poem actually mean without going to the next line to obtain more idea on the content. He uses the defunct to hide the meaning of the poem from the readers who are fond of reading first lines of the poems and they make conclusions. He tries to use unfamiliar words that people cannot easily identify with so as to delay the depiction of the content of the poem at the initial reading stages. Only the words he uses are unfamiliar, however, what he tries to express is what we are very familiar with and we see it every day in our societies. He uses unfamiliar words to express familiar contents. To help give more light on the poems content, Cummings uses vivid descriptions to describe Buffalo Bills who used to, ride a watersmooth-silver. These are the words Cummings uses to describe Buffalo Bills feat. Additionally, he gives more vivid picture on the personality traits of the man he was a handsome man. One is able to get the clear picture of the outlook of Buffalo Bills through reading the line. The main content of the poem is the downfall of a successful and famous individual.
Cummings depicts the real vices that happen in our societies today. No matter how strong, famous, popular and powerful in the society, it reaches a point in time when their reigns and popularity ends. This poem shows that everything has a beginning and also an end. Something must start somewhere and goes through various successful stages but eventually it must fall. It shows the dynamism nature of our society; something that does not last forever. The same way the society is dynamic, literature also is dynamic so as to accommodate the changes that continue to emerge in the society (Robert et al, 2010). The poet has tried to use the various linguistic features like the vivid descriptions to give clearer picture to help understand the content. As we have said above, the form of a poem helps in understanding the content. Cummings tries to explain that even the most powerful people like the presidents or the most popular people like celebrities must one day die and their reign come to an end. Cummings has employed a unique eccentric typography and word arrangement that tries to evoke emotions from the reader; thus identifying with the characters. His word arrangement does not only call for critical thinking from the readers but also help them identify with the real world and that of imagination. He uses the word Jesus to bridge the two critical stages in life; birth and death. Poets have the freedom to break away from the normal grammatical sentence structure so that they can achieve a certain effect in the poem (Robert et al, 2010). Cummings has neglected the normal grammatical sentence structure in the way he arranges his words by removing the spacing of words. For example, he writes pigeonsjustlikethat to show the swiftness of Buffalo Bills in his actions; he acts very quickly. Buffalo Bills has been used symbolically in the poem to represent a famous and successful person who has fallen.
In conclusion, Cummings works are very tricky and they require critical thinking beyond just reading the poem. For one to effectively interpret the poem, one must read the whole poem more than once to get actual meaning. Cummings tries to teach us that everything that we do has a consequence; no matter how righteous we might live. The form and the content of a poem have a significant connection and one cannot exist without the other.
Robert Scholes, Nancy R. Comley, Carl H.Klaus and David Stains. Elements of Literature (4th edition); Oxford University Press, 2010.
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