Alright, I’ll admit it- I completely adore E.E. Cummings’ poetry. It seems like a lot of young adults who don’t know much about poetry do, because he’s “edgy” and “different” and writes very frankly about sex, which seems like the coolest thing when you’re a high school freshman and you have no idea what the hell that Frost guy is trying to say. (Sorry Robert, baby, I love you!)
A lot of those kids don’t know that Cummings has written over 2,900 poems, ranging from classical sonnets to almost unreadable free verse poems. The extent of their knowledge generally ends after they memorize a line or two from “i carry your heart with me,” which they recite soulfully to the girl they’re trying to date in order to sound romantic and sensitive (I have not done this because I am a girl and reciting lines of poetry to boys is NOT, as it turns out, a good way to get them to like you). You see, I just spent a semester working on a thesis project on E.E. Cummings, and after spending the last five months or so of my life up to my eyeballs in his poetry and criticism about his poetry, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on his work.
I’m not, of course. Not by a longshot. But I did pick up a thing or two.
“-in Just” is ostensibly a lighthearted poem written about the innocence of children playing during the springtime- however, the inclusion of the balloonman in the poem, who is old and, most worryingly, “goat-footed,” suggests that there is a darker threat constantly looming above this idyllic world. I mean, come on. What does the qualifier “goat-footed” remind you of? Pan the sex-addicted satyr? The devil? Yeah, not exactly the figures you’d want hanging around young kids, huh?
This isn’t one of his most popular or relatable poems, but it is one that I think exemplifies a lot of the themes that he included in his embodied works. Hopefully you all enjoy it as much as I do!
You can view the poem here: in Just-