l(a (A Leaf Falls with Loneliness) by E.E. Cummings

This poem, l(aA Leaf Falls with Loneliness, remains one of the most fascinating. Somehow, after decades, this poem still captivates its readers, though it is only a few words long. The effect is all the more powerful because the poem is so short it feels almost as if it is cut off too early. It causes the reader to feel a sense of emptiness at the lack of completion. This effect directly relates to the words that seem to exist within the poem on their own in a state of complete and utter loneliness. Thus, the meaning of the poem exists in the feeling it renders to its readers. The lack of completion of words and the use of incomplete phrases allows the reader to feel an absence of completion, which is the very sense of loneliness presented in this poem. This is why the poem, short as it is, sticks in the minds of those who read it. It’s very brevity creates the feeling that directly relates to the imagery of a single leaf falling to the ground by itself. That feeling is deep and utter loneliness.


l(a (A Leaf Falls with Loneliness) Analysis


The word “loneliness” can be made out. It exists outside of the parenthesis. It is one word by itself. There are no other words to complete the thought. It stands alone, and is the word “loneliness”. The phrase “a leaf falls” can be found inside of the parenthesis. This creates an image of loneliness. This leaf falls by itself. It is not with other leaves. It falls from it’s place on the tree. The image of a leaf falling also implies death. The life of the leaf is over for the season. The cold of the winter is soon to come and the chill of the fall has rendered the leaf lifeless. Thus, it falls to the ground by itself. This image is one of loneliness, and the phrase existing inside of the word “loneliness” allows the reader to feel the very loneliness mention here. The image creates the feeling of loneliness, and reading the word which, by itself, makes up the entire poem, allows the reader to experience the deep sense of loneliness the speaker conveys with these few words.

The poem also functions visually. The words inside the parenthesis actually look like a leaf as it sways back and forth in the wind as it falls to the ground. Thus, this is more than just a poem. This is also a work of art that is made from a few words. This allows the reader to experience not only the imagery created by the description of the leaf falling to the ground in loneliness, but also to experience the imagery created by the very words and the way they are arranged on the page.


E.E. Cummings Background

This poem, among others, is the reason that Cummings is described as an “innovative poet known for his lack of stylistic and structural conformity” (Biography.com). This poem certainly lacks conformity, and yet it is still considered poetry because of the effect it has on the readers. The words can move the reader to a deeper feeling and understanding of true loneliness. Some critics have also described his poetry, saying that it “played wildly with form and spacing, punctuation, capitalization, overall grammar and pacing” (E.E. Cummings). This poem certainly does just that. The very word “loneliness” which makes up the poem, is interrupted with an image of loneliness. Thus, the poem is effective even though it is only a few words and conforms to no specific pattern or style. Although Cummings wrote many poems like this one, he was also skilled in writing in traditional styles, and wrote a number of widely recognized sonnets. As in this poem, Cummings often focused on images from nature to relay his messages.

Cummings found wide recognition during his career, though not until he had self-published much of his work. At first, he struggled financially as the style of his poetry was not immediately appreciated. However, Cummings was able to experience fame during his lifetime, which is a feat many poets never accomplish. Later in his career, the non-conformity of his poems was favored, and he was proven to be one of the first to break new ground in the area of poetry by writing in unique styles and breaking the conformity that most poets adhered to.

Cummings was not only a non-conformist in his poetry, but in his life and beliefs as well. Cummings went to Harvard, where his father taught, and where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. However, when he went overseas for some time to serve in World War I as a volunteer for the ambulance corps, his non-conformist attitudes surfaced, causing him some unprecedented conflict. Sometime after his deployment, he was detained on suspicion of treason because of the content of some of his letters (E.E. Cummings) . Cummings did not deny that he was a pacifist, and it is likely that his letters expressed his hatred for war and perhaps his questioning of authority. Thus, in his life and in the words of his poetry, Cummings reveals a mind which was not bound by rules, laws, and statutes. He was one who would think for himself and allow his mind to wander outside of the social norms, just as the style of his poetry wandered outside the conformity of the famous poems written before his time.

Works Cited:

  • “E.E. Cummings: Artist, Author, Poet, Playwright (1894-1962).” Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, 22 Aug. 2016. Web. 03 Nov. 2016.

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