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It also happens that Cummings’s first collection, “Tulips & Chimneys,” in which the Buffalo Bill poem appears, was published in 1922, the year of Joyce’s “Ulysses” and Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” Cummings had been reading both writers for years, and their influence on his work is plain to see.
From Joyce, he had learned how to present a verbal equivalent of the mind’s wanderings between past and present, and so a fleeting triumph over linear time.
The conceit may even play, in an egalitarian spirit, on the idea of capitalization in the economic sense, as if there might be a relationship between upper and lower cases and upper and lower classes.
This was a poet whose work was distinguished as much by its erotic candor and intensity (“there is between my big legs a crisp city”) as by its formal experiments. As the poem proceeds, it develops what is essentially an Elizabethan conceit on the relationship between motoring and lovemaking.
When, in later years, college girls swooned at his readings, they were responding to more than just zany typography. There are more and more verbal pileups (“Bothatonce”; “allofher”), and a double entendre on a slang reading of Cummings’s own name:again slo-wly;bare,ly nudg.
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