E.E. Cummings Month: “Buffalo Bill’s”

Buffalo Bill’s
             who used to
              ride a watersmooth-silver
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
he was a handsome man
                                          and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death

(E.E. Cummings, “Buffalo Bill’s,” 1920.)


Well, how do you, Mr. Death.

This is one of several Cummings poems first published in The Dial in 1920. A very early example of his fascination with unusual forms, “Buffalo Bill’s” use of whitespace in the poem is in part influenced by Pablo Picasso, who Cummings met in Paris after serving time in France on a trumped up charge of being a spy during the Great War (total folklore — he was a volunteer ambulance driver and was guilty of nothing more than being an outspoken critic of war, violence, and suffering in general). Cummings was also a painter and was inspired by Picasso’s formalistic experiments in cubism: he carried the philosophy forward in to his writing as well.

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2 Responses to “E.E. Cummings Month: “Buffalo Bill’s””

  1. panda eraser Says:

    i wrote an epic poem for my freshman year english class that utilized white space in a similar way. i lost points because my teacher didn’t get it. i think he wrote something in the column along the lines of, “this format doesn’t make sense,” with arrows pointing at spaces i had included on purpose.

    damn the man.

    • E. Says:

      That is total baloney. I didn’t get whitespace for a long, long time, and then when I finally opened myself up to poetry I realized it was an essential point to prolong emotion. Like the wavy line of a note in Rock Band indicating to hold it.

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