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the boys i mean are not refined... (44)

e.e. cummings

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the boys i mean...
Added by: Joyce
A surprising poem from e e cummings! Then again I was never really familiar with his stuff until I went e e c-crazy the other day and looked up a lot of his poetry. This one is very crude and hardly connotative (think she being (Brand )... but it is good, for some reason I can't really define. The truth of the matter is, a lot of boys out there really are dickheads and it's good to remember that before doing something stupid.
Added by: aztecdragon
Note that although he asserts that they, boys, i mean, "are not refined", he does not necessarily condemn them. The finishing touch e e gives the poem gives us a little hint that he may not be. "they shake the mountains when they dance": sounds almost like he's watching them awestruck from afar, admiring their energy. think about it. Gotta love that last line.
Added by: Bob
Sounds to me like ee is commenting on hardened professional soldiers This would explain the "shake the mountains" line i.e mortar, shell or bomb exposions. Also the line about ease of killing others.
Disgusting but well done
Added by: Margy Scott
Art isn't always pretty, and neither is poetry. The boys he means are disgusting to me, but to Cummings they had an energy and a disdain for social convention that he admired. He didn't admire them enough to emulate them, thank goodness. But he had hormones and was a man, and that animal nature stirs in every man, I suppose. In some, social convention glosses it over, but they remain just as primitive inside and do a lot of damage to other people. Others develop empathy and a higher nature. But I can see why Cummings would at least admire the pure primitiveness of these people. (even if I don't)
Added by: Julie
I don't really know enough about poetry .. and understanding it... but i do understand this one! I think that its talking about boys that just don't know any better... but in another sense talking about the way boys think... and i think that what e.e. cummings is so very right!
bad boys, indeed...
Added by: john
I think Bob got it right. Soldiers. Bad-ass raping soldiers. "they go with girls who bite and buck." and, "they hump them 13 times a night." About a platoons worth. "They cannot read and cannot write." Sure....They're foreigners. "They do not give a fuck for luck." They rely on their skill, and each other. And of course, the "shake the mountain" thing....Then again, the poem could be about accordian repairmen....jcw
Added by: Aloysius Flyte
Erica Jong uses this poem in "Parachutes
and Kisses" and it's clear in the context
that she approves. As I remember it,
the main female character has just met
a man who exhibits that sort of lack of
sexual inhibition - which belies the
"professional soldier" interpretation, but
I think it's permissible (and maybe even
preferable) that a poem allows several
readings. There are aspects of women that
inhibit (or even disgust?) too many men.
E.g. their periods. Even though that's what
makes them women......
What about the girls?
Added by: Leah Wingate
A lot of comments are focusing on the boys of this poem, but I think the girls are made equally powerful. Not in a brilliant feminine mystique kind of way but in a base, raw...sort of enviable way..."they laugh like they would fall apart and masturbate with dynamite" I think "the boys" and the girls are on a level playing field here. They are filled with this violent energy that ee cummings (and myself) may admire from afar, but never truly engage in.
Added by: Dan D.
This poem is about cannoniers in the first world war. The girls are their cannon. Humped thirteen times a night: moved at night up and down hills to new positions.

one hangs a hat upon her tit : gunners hung thier hats from the metal tit at the base of the gun.

one carves a cross on her behind: gunners carved crosses on the base of the gun for luck or superstition.

laugh like they would fall apart and masterbate with dynamite: self explanitory when you have the reference. As is: They shake the mountains when they dance.
Bad manners indeed
Added by: Clif Garboden
I think Dan D. there has it about right, but that doesn't stop the poem from (and this was not accidental) provoking wider-ranging images of urban gangsters, ignorance, and sexual callousness. I'm old enough to remember when this poem was excluded from "The Collected Works of . . ." There was just a blank page, which made it an underground favorite. And yes, the last line is the real hook and it's so positive, I alwayys wished it referred to something more laudable.

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