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Here's the poem:


I have to admit: I care for neither the punctuation nor the word splitting. The (, &, and word-splits just make the poem "cutesy". I prefer "in just-": http://www.web-books.com/Classics/Poetry/Anthology/cummings/InJust.htm .

But I know next to nothing about poetry.

Do others find the poem effective?
I'm not a fan of e.e. cummings, Julie-- because I don't understand what he's getting at, usually. About these two particular poems, my reaction is that in just- may be more attractive because of its playful coined images (mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful), which old age sticks does not have. What the latter does hold for me is the ultra-simple staccato of the innate antipathy between youth and age.

But, no, I can't match up the parentheses to their mates either-- perhaps there's an on-line exegesis somewhere....
Thanks. Just a silly question: How would you read the poems to demonstrate the unusual spellings and spacing?


"bettyandisbel", "eddieandbill" or "gr
owing old"? Would you speed up or slow down?

Not silly, certainly, but probably unanswerable in the absolute. I'm sure that every reader would take his own tack. Myself, I'd read the boys' names and the girls' names much as we'd say them anyway-- and that is probably what e.e. intended: Eddie 'n' Bill. As for gr/owing: I'd guess that e.e. wanted us to stretch it out a bit, is all... over two lines at least.
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The open ended parentheses leads us back to the beginning where youth just keeps on growing old...age sticks. It is a never ending cycle and a beautiful poem.
what is this poem really about
I find this to be one of cummings' best poems. It's all about the conflict between adults and/or authority who set up rules and young people who rebel. Notice that everything that "old age" says is IN parentheses (signifying their stifling control) and everything that "youth" says is OUTSIDE of parenthese (signifying freedom). Much if what "old age" says begins with a capital (signifying authority) and everything "youth" says is in lower case. The split words give cummings a double meaning. For example, breaking up "Mustn't" in the fourth stanza into Must/ n't signifies both those things adults say we MUST do and those things they say we MUSTN'T do. Better yet, the last two lines break up the phrase "growing old" into gr/owing old signifying that not only do young people eventually grow older, they also OWE something to their elders who have set boundaries to keep them safe, help them mature, etc. This is cumming's point--youth may rebel against the restrictions "put up" by their elders (who were once rebellious youths themselves remember) but they are who they are in part because of what their elders have taught them. And they too will grow older, only to set rules and restrictions for their own children someday. How do we know this? Notice that that the last word and the first word of the poem is "old." Just like the cycle of life, you can go from the bottom of the poem right back into the beginning of the poem to start the cycle all over again. And notice too that if you do this, the "old" of the youth at the end of the poem, which is outside of parentheses becomes the "old" of old age at the top of the poem which is in parentheses. The rebellious youth have grown up to establish restrictions of their own. This is truly a remarkably complex poem by cummings though on the surface it seems so simplistic.
Word play and unusual spatial arrangement of words and symbols are two of cummings’s most significant contributions to modern poetry. Cummings drew and painted from an early age, and his poems often reflect his interest in visual representation of the world. Like a visual artist, he bent, broke, twisted, and reshaped the material of his poetic craft — language.

In “old age sticks” cummings flouts the conventions of language in various ways. He uses enjambment — the spilling over of one line onto the next — to create multiple meanings, as in “youth goes/right on/gr/owing old.” He capitalizes words contrary to the standard rules, as in this poem, where he uses capitals to emphasize each word in old age’s string of negative commands: “Keep / Off,” “No / Tres pas/sing,” “Forbid/den Stop / Must/n’t Don’t.” Parentheses are normally used to enclose supplemental or somewhat extraneous information that is not essential to the primary meaning of the sentence; in “old age sticks,” however, cummings uses parentheses to separate the passages relating to old age from those about youth. Both sets of information are essential to the meaning of the poem. Cummings also places or spaces words in highly unconventional ways, as when youth “interrupts” old age: “No / Tres)& (pas) / youth laughs / (sing.”

The presence of all these devices might be disorienting for a reader unused to such oddities, so cummings provides some aids to understanding the poem — he creates his own “rules.” For example, each of the five stanzas contains eight syllables arranged in four lines: 3-2-1-2. This arrangement gives the poem structure and a degree of predictability. Cummings consistently uses the ampersand Emotion: dog rather than the word “and.” Also, as we have seen, he is absolutely regular in the way he uses parentheses and capitals.

All the devices cummings employs add meaning to the poem, so that it conveys more than just the dictionary definitions of its words. In “old age sticks,” the words carry their usual meanings, but they also carry additional significance. The poem is about more than simply a battle between youth and old age. The interdependence of youth and old age and the theme of the cycle of life are entirely conveyed through cummings’ poetic devices. The words themselves say nothing about these subjects. Through the skillful selection, arrangement, and application of words, symbols, and techniques, Cummings is able to make “old age sticks” mean more than it says.

EXAMPLE: line 2 says " Up Keep" this si saying that the old take care of the youth but lines 2-4 combined say "keep Off Signs" this shows how old peple are forbbiding the youth

It is confusing i admit it BUT if you read it again and again and pay VERY close attention to the ouncuation and grouping of words it does really mean differnt thing than if you were to just read it like a newspaper article

youre welcome..
well I thought the was to recite one of his last poems, im not for sure though