I wrote this blog-post a year ago, but have decided to use the quote by Cummings as a mantra for this semester. I am teaching “Ecopoetics in the Age of the Anthropocene” and a sampling of 20th Century American literature that focuses on trauma, healing, language, and consciousness. Therefore, wandering in form is most apt.
E. E. Cummings understood how a form is “something to wander in”—and he suggests that children understand this more than any other demographic:
There are two types of human beings: children and prisoners. Prisoners are inhabited by formulae. Children inhabit forms. A formula is something to get out of oneself, to rid oneself of—an arbitrary emphasis. . . . A form is something to wander in, to loose oneself in—a new largeness. (qtd in Kennedy 319)
How many of us are imprisoned by “formulae.” How many of us teach “formulae” to our students, straight-jacketing them in arbitrary conventions? The best writers—and musicians—demonstrate how one can wander in a form and redefine/rewrite/recreate the supposed rules. This can happen even in and through the conventions of the academic essay—if we permit our students to play with and wander in its form. To wilder is to wander in the unknown—which can lead to bewilderment, that ontological state of being in the wildness of language—or in the case of my daughter, music . . . even if the size of the guitar threatens to be too big for her tiny soul. Far from it. As she “looses” and “loses” herself, she discovers a new largeness.
I’ve titled this piece “I Love Everyone . . . Especially if you’re 20 & Love my Birthday”
Kennedy, Richard. Dreams in the Mirror: A Biography of E. E. Cummings. New York: Liveright, 1980. Print.
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