Symbolism in a Poem 9 by Edward Cummings

Categories: Poems

Edward Estlin Cummings was a unique poet with an equally unique writing style. E. E. Cummings was born on October 14th, 1894 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1916, Cummings graduated with a master’s degree from Harvard University. During his studies, he was subject to many great writers such as Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. After working for five months as a volunteer ambulance driver in World War I, he was captured by French authorities. He was accused on accounts of espionage.

After the war, he settled into a life in which he bounced around from houses in rural Connecticut and Greenwich Village.

He also traveled through Europe meeting various poets and artists, including Pablo Picasso. During his life, Cummings won a number of awards for his unique style of writing. At the time of his death in 1962, he was the second most widely read poet in the United States, only behind Robert Frost. In this essay, we will discuss three distinct features of his writing that made it so unique.

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These features included literary devices, imagery, and symbolism.

One of the most prominent poetic devices in E. E. Cummings poem, “9”, is alliteration. This literary device is obvious throughout the poem. For example, in the first stanza, “There are so many tic-toc clocks everywhere telling people what tic-toc time it is, for tic-toc instance, five toc minutes toc past six tic” (Cummings Web). Cummings uses the phrase tic-toc, and other variations of that to create a sense of repetition. This fits nicely into what the major theme of the poem is.

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Cummings believes that watching and keeping track of time gets repetitive.

Through alliteration, Cummings creates a sense of repetition while summarizing the overwhelming theme of the poem. Another major poetic device Cummings uses in his poem “9” is imagery. Cummings makes use of descriptive phrases that practically paint a picture in the reader’s mind. For example, “Spring is not regulated and does not get out of order, nor do its hands a little jerking move over numbers slowly” (Cummings Web). The section “Its hand a little jerking move over numbers slowly,” instantly gives the reader the image of a clock.

In the way he conveys this, it’s clear that he feels time is moving very slowly. In the third stanza, “We do not wind it up, it has no weights, spring wheels inside of its slender self, no indeed dear nothing of the kind” (Cummings Web), Cummings creates vivid imagery. This shows that Cummings is relating how he has no use for a clock and doesn’t care for the principle of keeping time. He would rather live life time free, without having to worry about being on time or being late. The third and final poetic device that shows up in the poem, “9”, is symbolism.

To begin the poem Cummings uses symbolism. The number “9” refers to the number of times he uses the words, “tic-toc”, “toc-tic”, “tic-tic”, “toc”, and “tic”. Also, as seen in the fourth stanza, “So when kiss spring comes, we’ll kiss each kiss other on kiss the kiss lips because the tic clocks toc don’t make a toc-tic difference to kiss kiss you and to kiss me” (Cummings Web). Cummings uses the word “kiss” to complicate and clutter the verse. If you remove those words, he simply summarizes all of his thoughts in the last stanza.

He says when spring comes; we can kiss because the clocks don’t make a difference to you and me. This symbolizes that Cummings can’t wait for the spring and summer months when the clocks don’t play a role in his life. In conclusion, Cummings uses his poem “9” to relay his feeling to time. He feels that clocks are constantly telling people what time it is, that they are too late or too early. He believes they should be allowed freedom, which the clocks don’t seem to give. In the summer, however, the clocks don’t matter because it’s a time for relaxation and fun. He could really care less about the clocks.

Updated: Apr 19, 2023
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Symbolism in a Poem 9 by Edward Cummings. (2016, Sep 14). Retrieved from

Symbolism in a Poem 9 by Edward Cummings essay
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