Sunday Poetry: one’s not half two. It’s two are halves of one:, by e.e. cummings

one’s not half two. It’s two are halves of one:

one’s not half two. It’s two are halves of one:
which halves reintegrating,shall occur
no death and any quantity;but than
all numerable mosts the actual more

minds ignorant of stern miraculous
this every truth-beware of heartless them
(given the scalpel,they dissect a kiss;
or,sold the reason,they undream a dream)

one is the song which fiends and angels sing:
all murdering lies by mortals told make two.
Let liars wilt,repaying life they’re loaned;
we(by a gift called dying born)must grow

deep in dark least ourselves remembering
love only rides his year.
All lose,whole find

– e.e. cummings

A friend got married yesterday, and, during the ceremony, she quoted one of e.e. cummings’ love poems. It was a wonderful choice. Those who remember e.e. cummings only for his refusal to comply with typographical and sentence structure expectations might be astonished to read his sweet and occasionally blushing love poetry.

The strongest stanza in this poem is the second, when he contrasts himself with those who are sternly anchored in reason, and thus are blind to love’s glory. Indeed, those who, sold on reason, would dissect a kiss would not understand it – the thrill of skin on skin is not scientific, but it is real. His line echoes Wordsworth from the prior century: “Our meddling intellect/ Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:–/ We murder to dissect.”

The key to enjoying cummings’ poetry is to shush your inner schoolmarm. Let go and just read it out loud. Don’t get frustrated by the jarring word combinations or the lack of apparent rhythm. If you’re tripped up by stressed syllables tumbling together, accept that it’s okay – he wants to you slow down there and struggle a bit.

I don’t love every cummings poem, but I love a lot of them. I do best in my enjoyment when I give up on making strict sense of everything, and relax in the presence of a master.

3 Responses to “Sunday Poetry: one’s not half two. It’s two are halves of one:, by e.e. cummings”

  1. Rachel says:

    I realize this is an old post, but I just found it while doing a search for this poem to show a student who shares my love of Romantic poetry, and she had never heard of cummings. I absolutely love this poem and wrote about it for my senior thesis in college, and I just wanted to compliment you on a beautiful analysis of it. What a great summary of a beautiful poem! I hope you are well and still enjoying e. e. cummings!

  2. gonemild says:

    Thank you for the kind comment!

  3. ctallen says:

    i love, love, love your interpretation of this. It’s my mom’s motto for her life. My parents are celebrating their 43rd wedding anniversary and i submitted my paragraphs about them and opened with e.e. cummings’ poem: one’s not half two. It’s two are halves of one the true essence of their love for one another.

    Thank you for sharing your intelligent and thoughtful read on this most beautiful love poem.

    I also love his Daffodil and I carry your heart

    So, here is to love and poetry and ee cummings

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