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Edward Estlin (E E) Cummings Biography

The biography of Edward Estlin (E E) Cummings. This page has biographical information on Edward Estlin (E E) Cummings, one of the best poets of all time. We also provides access to the poet's poems, best poetry, quotes, short poems, and more.

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E. E. Cummings (1894–1962), American poet, painter, essayist, author, and playwright

Edward Estlin Cummings (October 14, 1894 – September 3, 1962), abbreviated E. E. Cummings, was an American poet, painter, essayist, and playwright. His publishers and others have sometimes echoed the unconventional capitalization in his poetry by writing his name in lower case, as e. e. cummings; Cummings himself did not approve of this rendering. [1]

Cummings is probably best known for his poems and their unorthodox usage of capitalization, layout, punctuation and syntax. There is extensive use of lower case; word gaps, line breaks and gaps appear in unexpected places; punctuation marks are omitted or misplaced, interrupting sentences and even individual words; grammar and word order are sometimes strange. Many of his poems are best understood when read on the page. When read in the correct fashion, his poems often paint a syntactical picture as vital to the understanding of the poem as the words themselves.

Despite Cummings' affinity for avant-garde styles and for unusual typography, much of his work is traditional. Many of his poems are sonnets, and he occasionally made use of the blues form and acrostics as well. Cummings' poetry often deals with themes of love and nature, as well as the relationship of the individual to the masses and to the world. His poems are often satirical as well. But, while his poetic forms and even themes show a close continuity with the romantic tradition, his work universally shows a particular idiosyncrasy of syntax or way of arranging individual words into larger phrases and sentences. Many of his most striking poems do not involve any typographical or punctuational innovations at all, but purely syntactic ones.

During his lifetime, he published more than 900 poems, along with two novels, several plays and essays, as well as numerous drawings, sketches, and paintings. He is remembered as one of the preeminent voices of 20th.


As well as being influenced by notable sources modernists including Stein and Pound, Cummings' early work drew upon the imagist experiments of Amy Lowell. Later his visits to Paris exposed him to Dada and surrealism, which in turn permeated his work.

While some of his poetry is free verse (with no concern for rhyme and scansion), many of his poems have a recognizable sonnet structure of 14 lines, with an intricate rhyme scheme. A number of his poems feature a typographically exuberant style, with words, parts of words, or punctuation symbols scattered across the page, often making little sense until read aloud—at which point the meaning and emotion become clear. As a painter, Cummings understood the importance of presentation, and used typography to "paint a picture" with some of his poems.[2]

Even in his earliest work the seeds of Cummings' unconventional style seem well established. At age six Cummings wrote to his father:


Cummings' first published work following The Enormous Room was a collection of poems entitled Tulips and Chimneys (1923). The collection was the public's first encounter with his characteristic eccentric use of grammar and punctuation. An example:






Some of Cummings's most famous poems do not involve much if any odd typography or punctuation at all, but still carry his unmistakable style. For example, the aptly titled "anyone lived in a pretty how town" begins:

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

"why must itself up every of a park" begins as follows:

why must itself up every of a park
anus stick some quote statue unquote to
prove that a hero equals any jerk
who was afraid to dare to answer "no"?

Readers sometimes experience a jarring, incomprehensible effect because the poems do not accord with the conventional combinatorial rules that generate typical English sentences. (For example "Why must itself..." or "they sowed their isn't [...]"). His readings of Gertrude Stein in the early part of the century probably functioned as a springboard into this aspect of his artistic development (in the same way that Robert Walser's work acted as a springboard for Franz Kafka). In some respects, Cummings's work shows more stylistic continuity with Stein's than with any other poet or writer.

In addition, a number of Cummings' poems feature in part or in whole intentional misspellings; several feature phonetic spellings intended to represent particular dialects. Cummings also made use of inventive formations of compound words, as in "in Just-", which features words such as "mud-luscious" and "puddle-wonderful".

Many of Cummings' poems address social issues and satirize society (see "why must itself up every of a park", above), but have an equal or even stronger bias toward romanticism: time and again his poems celebrate love, sex and spring (see "anyone lived in a pretty how town" in its entireity).

His talent extended to children's books, novels, and painting. A notable example of his versatility is an Introduction he wrote for a collection of the comic strip Krazy Kat.

An example of Cummings' unorthodox typographical style can be seen in his poems "the sky was candy luminous..." and "a leaf falls loneliness".

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