“may i feel said he” By E.E. Cummings

 

may i feel said he
(i’ll squeal said she
just once said he)
it’s fun said she

(may i touch said he
how much said she
a lot said he)
why not said she

(let’s go said he
not too far said she
what’s too far said he
where you are said she)

may i stay said he
(which way said she
like this said he
if you kiss said she

may i move said he
is it love said she)
if you’re willing said he
(but you’re killing said she

but it’s life said he
but your wife said she
now said he)
ow said she

(tiptop said he
don’t stop said she
oh no said he)
go slow said she

(cccome?said he
ummm said she)
you’re divine!said he
(you are Mine said she)

Background

Originally published in 1935 “may i feel said he” is one of E.E. Cummings’ most original and well-loved poems. Cummings’ avant-garde style of poetry, as well as traditional works,  is combined with themes of love, nature, relationships, and lust. His poems often rife with risque descriptions and satire. For a detailed description of E.E. Cummings and his writings, see my post here.

Thoughts

Ah, nothing like an erotic poem to start off the list. I was first introduced to this poem by hearing it read aloud to me. The reciter being someone who let’s just say–I had a romantic interest in. That alone made this poem even more interesting and titillating as my mind wandered and sought to divulge the full meaning of this arousing conversation between two people.

As if Mr. Cummings last name wasn’t enough to elicit giggling from schoolchildren, this poem sure would do the trick. Jumping straight to images of sex, perhaps my poetically challenged mind originally missed any underlying themes. Although I think it’s fair to say this poem is mostly about sex. It starts off innocently enough until Cummings slides in a brilliant volta with the line “but your wife said she” Uh oh. Is this a possible illicit affair fueled by sexual desire?

Things To Note

  • Use of capitalization, or shall I say lack thereof. Notice the only capitalized word being “Mine” in the last line. A clear stylistic choice, but why?
  • Use of punctuation. Also lacking, except for the last stanza where we see a question mark and exclamation point, both said by “he”. Interesting.
  • And finally, parentheses. What do they mean? Are the lines inside the parentheses telling a different story? Something a bit more secretive?

Final Suggestion: Listen to the poem being read by Tom Hiddleston. Or better yet have a romantic love or someone you lust for read you the poem, or read the poem aloud together, switching off lines. Who knows what new emotions and meaning you might discover!

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