Known as both a traditional and an avant-garde poet, E. E. Cummings’ work is quite unique and often misunderstood. Cummings was known as being intensely against regimentation and conventional thinking. Therefore, his poetry was heavily influenced by his nonconformist philosophy on life and was superficially symbolized by his refusal to use capital letters throughout his poetry and his intentional avoidance of conventional grammar and syntax. Cummings’ work was also characterized by an undercurrent of pathos and the occasional use of poetic conventions. He, like many great poets, had the capability of making the English language do unexpected and extraordinary things. In a letter to his mother, Cummings wrote "I should think myself cheated if I allowed my humanly-sentimental-mind to interfere, one iota, with the sealed letters of sensation brought to my soul by these eyes, these ears, this nose and this tongue" (Kennedy 174). The philosophy Cummings expressed in this letter returns again and again throughout his poetry – an embrace of immediate sensory and emotional experience coupled with an at-times in-your-face anti-intellectual credo.
Works such as “since feeling is first” unmistakably cast a vote in favor of following one's heart rather than one's mind. The initial alliteration of the words “feeling” and “first” in the opening stanza, along with the repetition of the first line of the poem as the title, emphasize Cumming’s stance on what takes precedence in life. The statement that “kisses are a better fate / than wisdom” dismisses intellect altogether. With “And death i think is no parenthesis,” Cummings continues to urge his readers to live for the moment, as many, because of death, will not have the option. The poem’s overall message is simply to live and love wholly and purely. “since feeling is first” suggests that at the heart of our existence is the desire for this undiluted experience.
In “since feeling is first,” Cummings’ presents writing as an occasional undesirable blemish on the pure experience of life. He hypocritically professes that “life’s not a paragraph” and that one "who pays any attention / to the syntax of things / will never wholly kiss you." Here he states that life cannot be captured in writing. Is he implying that literary works cannot capture the experience of life that he so passionately argues is most important? This opposes the very nature of Cummings, the man who throughout his entire life works resisted proper grammar and syntax to express his philosophy on life. Although Cummings he very nature of this poem does reveal the depth of life the very way he intended it to. The mere fact that Cummings states that "life's not a paragraph" shows how important he believes it is to wholly experience life emotionally and sensually.
This awareness of the true experience of life that Cummings wants us as the reader to understand and appreciate is often lost among some of the complexities of his writing style like his unusual and unconventional use of syntax. To full comprehend the experiences that he is trying to portray within his poetry it is important for the reader to look past these complexities. A better understanding of the emotions and sensory experiences of life he is portraying may be better understood if the reader as a personal experience of life especially of what it feels like to love and be loved. Allows a full appreciation of the eccentricities of his work.
Cummings wishes to communicate may or may not actually get through to the reader depending on how that particular reader approaches or experiences Cummings' poetry. Frequently, readers seem to be too perplexed and bogged down by his unconventional style and syntax to appreciate the significance of his work. But as subjective as the understanding and appreciation of Cummings' poetry may be, knowledge of the importance he places on this sensory experience