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E. E. Cummings

E.E. Cummings in 1953
Born Edward Estlin Cummings
October 14, 1894(1894-10-14)
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Died September 3, 1962 (aged 67)
North Conway, New Hampshire
Cause of death Stroke
Resting place Forest Hills Cemetery
Known for poems and other works of art
Religion Unitarian
Spouse(s) Elaine Orr
Anne Minnerly Barton
Marion Morehouse
Children Nancy, daughter with Elaine Orr
Parents Edward Cummings
Rebecca Haswell Clarke
Relatives Elizabeth Cummings, sister

Edward Estlin Cummings (October 14, 1894 – September 3, 1962), popularly known as E. E. Cummings, with the abbreviated form of his name often written by others in lowercase letters as e. e. cummings (in the style of some of his poems), was an American poet, painter, essayist, author, and playwright. His body of work encompasses approximately 2,900 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays and several essays, as well as numerous drawings and paintings. He is remembered as a preeminent voice of 20th century poetry, as well as one of the most popular.

Contents

Early years

Cummings was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on October 14, 1894, elder of two children to Edward Cummings and Rebecca Haswell Clarke.[1] His younger sister, Elizabeth, was born in 1901.

He was named after his father but his family called him by his middle name, Estlin.[2] His father was a professor of sociology and political science at Harvard University and later a Unitarian minister.[3] Cummings described his father as a person who could accomplish anything that he wanted to. Edward was well skilled and was always working or repairing things. He and his son were close, and Edward was one of Estlin's most ardent supporters.

His mother never partook in stereotypically "feminine" things, and enjoyed reading poetry to her children. Raised in a well-educated family, Cummings was a precocious boy and his mother encouraged Estlin to write poetry every day. He wrote his first poem when he was only three: "Oh,the pretty birdie,O;/with his little toe,toe,toe!"[4]

His boyhood home, the E.E. Cummings House, is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[5]

Education

In his youth, Estlin Cummings attended Cambridge Latin High School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Early stories and poems were published in the school newspaper, Cambridge Review.

Cummings enrolled at Harvard University in September 1911, from which he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1917 and a Master's degree for English and Classical Studies in 1916. While at Harvard, he befriended John Dos Passos, at one time rooming in Thayer Hall, named after the family of one of his Harvard acquaintances, Scofield Thayer, and not yet a freshman-only dormitory.[6] Several of Cummings' poems were published in the Harvard Monthly as early as his sophomore year. Cummings himself labored on the school newspaper alongside fellow Harvard Aesthetes Dos Passos and S. Foster Damon. In 1915, his poems were published in the Harvard Advocate.

In his final year at Harvard, Cummings was influenced by writers such as Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. He graduated magna cum laude in 1916, delivering a controversial commencement address entitled "The New Art". This speech gave him his first taste of notoriety, as he managed to give the false impression that the well-liked imagist poet, Amy Lowell, whom he himself admired, was "abnormal". For this, Cummings was chastised in the newspapers. In 1917, Cummings' first published poems appeared in a collection of poetry entitled Eight Harvard Poets.

Career

In 1917 Cummings enlisted in the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps, along with his college friend John Dos Passos. Due to an administrative mix-up, Cummings was not assigned to an ambulance unit for five weeks, during which time he stayed in Paris. He fell in love with the city, to which he would return throughout his life.

On September 21, 1917, just five months after his belated assignment, he and a friend, William Slater Brown, were arrested on suspicion of espionage. The two openly expressed anti-war views; Cummings spoke of his lack of hatred for the Germans.[7] They were sent to a military detention camp, the Dépôt de Triage, in La Ferté-Macé, Orne, Normandy, where they languished for 3½ months. Cummings' experiences in the camp were later related in his novel, The Enormous Room about which F. Scott Fitzgerald opined, "Of all the work by young men who have sprung up since 1920 one book survives- The Enormous Room by e e cummings....Those few who cause books to live have not been able to endure the thought of its mortality."[8]

He was released from the detention camp on December 19, 1917, after much intervention from his politically connected father. Cummings returned to the United States on New Year's Day 1918. Later in 1918 he was drafted into the army. He served in the 12th Division at Camp Devens, Massachusetts, until November 1918.[9][10]

Cummings returned to Paris in 1921 and remained there for two years before returning to New York. During the rest of the 1920s and 1930s he returned to Paris a number of times, and traveled throughout Europe, meeting, among others, Pablo Picasso. In 1931 Cummings traveled to the Soviet Union and recounted his experiences in Eimi, published two years later. During these years Cummings also traveled to Northern Africa and Mexico and worked as an essayist and portrait artist for Vanity Fair magazine (1924 to 1927).

Cummings' papers are held at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Personal life

In 1926, Cummings' father was killed in a car accident. Though severely injured, Cummings' mother survived. Cummings detailed the accident in the following passage from his i: six nonlectures series given at Harvard in 1952–1953:

... a locomotive cut the car in half, killing my father instantly. When two brakemen jumped from the halted train, they saw a woman standing – dazed but erect – beside a mangled machine; with blood spouting (as the older said to me) out of her head. One of her hands (the younger added) kept feeling her dress, as if trying to discover why it was wet. These men took my sixty-six year old mother by the arms and tried to lead her toward a nearby farmhouse; but she threw them off, strode straight to my father's body, and directed a group of scared spectators to cover him. When this had been done (and only then) she let them lead her away.

His father's death had a profound impact on Cummings and his work, who entered a new period in his artistic life. Cummings began to focus on more important aspects of life in his poetry. He began this new period by paying homage to his father's memory in the poem "my father moved through dooms of love".[11]

Born into a Unitarian family, Cummings exhibited transcendental leanings his entire life. As he grew in maturity and age, Cummings moved more toward an "I, Thou" relationship with God. His journals are replete with references to “le bon Dieu” as well as prayers for inspiration in his poetry and artwork (such as “Bon Dieu! may I some day do something truly great. amen.”). Cummings "also prayed for strength to be his essential self ('may I be I is the only prayer--not may I be great or good or beautiful or wise or strong'), and for relief of spirit in times of depression ('almighty God! I thank thee for my soul; & may I never die spiritually into a mere mind through disease of loneliness')."[12]

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

Marriages

Cummings was married three times, including a long common-law marriage.

  1. Elaine Orr: Cummings' first marriage, to Elaine Orr, began as a love affair in 1918 while she was married to Scofield Thayer, one of Cummings' friends from Harvard. The affair produced a daughter, Nancy, born on December 20, 1919. Nancy was Cummings' only child. After obtaining a divorce from Thayer, Elaine married Cummings on March 19, 1924. However, the marriage ended in divorce less than nine months later, when Elaine left Cummings for a wealthy Irish banker, moved to Ireland and took Nancy with her. Under the terms of the divorce Cummings was granted custody of Nancy for three months each year, but Elaine refused to abide by the agreement. Cummings did not see his daughter again until 1946.
  2. Anne Minnerly Barton: Cummings married his second wife Anne Minnerly Barton on May 1, 1929. They separated three years later in 1932. That same year, Anne obtained a Mexican divorce that was not officially recognized in the United States until August 1934.
  3. Marion Morehouse (March 9, 1906 in South Bend, Indiana – May 18, 1969 in Greenwich Village, New York City): In 1932, the same year Cummings and Anne separated, he met Marion Morehouse, a fashion model and photographer. Although it is not clear whether the two were ever legally married, Morehouse lived with Cummings until his death in 1962. Morehouse died May 18, 1969,[13] while living at 4 Patchin Place, Greenwich Village, New York City, where Cummings had resided since September 8, 1924.[14]

Political Views

A liberal in his early youth, Cummings' disillusion upon his trip to the Soviet Union in 1931, documented in Eimi, led him to shift rightward on many political and social issues. [15] Despite his radical and bohemian public image, he was a Republican and later on an ardent supporter of Joseph McCarthy.[16]

Poetry

Despite Cummings' consanguinity with avant-garde styles, much of his work is quite traditional. Many of his poems are sonnets, albeit often with a modern twist, and he occasionally made use of the blues form and acrostics. 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 also often rife with satire.

While his poetic forms and themes share an affinity with the romantic tradition, Cummings' 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 punctuation innovations at all, but purely syntactic ones.

As well as being influenced by notable modernists including Gertrude Stein and Ezra 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. Cummings also liked to incorporate imagery of nature and death into much of his poetry.

While some of his poetry is free verse (with no concern for rhyme or meter), many 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. Cummings, who was also a painter, understood the importance of presentation, and used typography to "paint a picture" with some of his poems.[17]

The seeds of Cummings' unconventional style appear well established even in his earliest work. At age six, he wrote to his father:

FATHER DEAR. BE, YOUR FATHER-GOOD AND GOOD,
HE IS GOOD NOW, IT IS NOT GOOD TO SEE IT RAIN,
FATHER DEAR IS, IT, DEAR, NO FATHER DEAR,
LOVE, YOU DEAR,
ESTLIN.

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

Some of Cummings' most famous poems do not involve much, if any, odd typography or punctuation, but still carry his unmistakable style, particularly in unusual and impressionistic word order. 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"?

Cummings' unusual style can be seen in his poem "Buffalo Bill's/ defunct" from the January 1920 issue of The Dial.

Readers sometimes experience a jarring, incomprehensible effect with Cummings' work, as the poems do not act in accordance with the conventional combinatorial rules that generate typical English sentences (for example, "why must itself..." or "they sowed their isn't..."). His readings of Stein in the early part of the century probably served as a springboard to 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' work is more stylistically continuous 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, and several incorporate 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", "puddle-wonderful", and "eddieandbill." This poem is part of a sequence of poems entitled Chansons Innocentes; it has many references comparing the "balloonman" to Pan, the mythical creature that is half-goat and half-man.

Many of Cummings' poems are satirical and address social issues (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 the season of rebirth (see "anyone lived in a pretty how town" in its entirety).

Cummings' 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.

Examples of Cummings' unorthodox typographical style can be seen in his poem "the sky was candy luminous...". His books still sell well.[18]

Plays

During his lifetime, Cummings published four plays: HIM (1927), Anthropos: or, the Future of Art (1930), Tom: A Ballet (1935), and Santa Claus: A Morality (1946).

  • HIM, a three-act play, was first produced in 1928 by the Provincetown Players in New York City. The production was directed by James Light. The play's main characters are "Him", a playwright, and "Me", his girlfriend. Cummings said of the unorthodox play:

Relax and give the play a chance to strut its stuff—relax, stop wondering what it is all 'about'—like many strange and familiar things, Life included, this play isn't 'about,' it simply is. . . . Don't try to enjoy it, let it try to enjoy you. DON'T TRY TO UNDERSTAND IT, LET IT TRY TO UNDERSTAND YOU."[19]

  • Anthropos, or the Future of Art is a short, one-act play that Cummings contributed to the anthology Whither, Whither or After Sex, What? A Symposium to End Symposium. The play consists of dialogue between Man, the main character, and three "infrahumans", or inferior beings. The word anthropos is the Greek word for "man", in the sense of "mankind".
  • Tom, A Ballet is a ballet based on Uncle Tom's Cabin. The ballet is detailed in a "synopsis" as well as descriptions of four "episodes", which were published by Cummings in 1935. It has never been performed. More information about the play as well as an illustration can be found at this webpage from the E. E. Cummings Society.
  • Santa Claus: A Morality was probably Cummings' most successful play. It is an allegorical Christmas fantasy presented in one act of five scenes. The play was inspired by his daughter Nancy, with whom he was reunited in 1946. It was first published in the Harvard College magazine the Wake. The play's main characters are Santa Claus, his family (Woman and Child), Death, and Mob. At the outset of the play, Santa Claus's family has disintegrated due to their lust for knowledge (Science). After a series of events, however, Santa Claus's faith in love and his rejection of the materialism and disappointment he associates with Science are reaffirmed, and he is reunited with Woman and Child.

Final years and death

Grave of E. E. Cummings

In 1952, his alma mater, Harvard, awarded Cummings an honorary seat as a guest professor. The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures he gave in 1952 and 1955 were later collected as i: six nonlectures.

Cummings spent the last decade of his life traveling, fulfilling speaking engagements, and spending time at his summer home, Joy Farm, in Silver Lake, New Hampshire.

He died on September 3, 1962, at the age of 67 in North Conway, New Hampshire of a stroke.[20] His cremated remains were buried in Lot 748 Althaeas Path, in Section 6, Forest Hills Cemetery and Crematory in Boston. In 1969, his third wife, Marion Morehouse Cummings, died and was buried in an adjoining plot.

Name and capitalization

Cummings' publishers and others have sometimes echoed the unconventional orthography in his poetry by writing his name in lower case and without periods. Cummings himself used both the lowercase and capitalized versions, but according to his widow did not, as reported in the preface of one book,[21] have his name legally changed to "e e cummings". He did, however, write to his French translator that he preferred the capitalized version ("may it not be tricksy").[22] One Cummings scholar believes that on the occasions Cummings signed his name in all-lowercase, the poet may have intended it as a gesture of humility, and not as an indication that it was the preferred orthography for others to use for his name.[23]

Awards

During his lifetime, Cummings received numerous awards in recognition of his work, including:

Works

See also

Others influenced by eccentric spelling:

Notes

  1. ^ Kennedy, p. 9.
  2. ^ Sawyer-Lauçanno, p. 1.
  3. ^ Kennedy, p. 10.
  4. ^ Cummings, E. E. (1953). Six Nonlectures. Harvard University Press. p. 28. http://books.google.com/books?id=RKhX4YnTP-cC&printsec=frontcover&dq=six+nonlectures&as_brr=3&client=firefox-a#v=onepage&q=birdie&f=false. 
  5. ^ Reuben, Paul P.. "E. E. Cummings (1894-1962)". PAL: Perspectives in American Literature - A Research and Reference Guide - An Ongoing Project. http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap7/cummings.html. Retrieved 2009-10-29. 
  6. ^ Harvard Freshman Pamphlet, 1996.
  7. ^ Friedman, Norman "Cummings, E[dward] E[stlin]" in Steven Serafin The Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature, 2003, Continuum, p. 244.
  8. ^ Bloom, p. 1814.
  9. ^ Kennedy, p. 186.
  10. ^ Data on U.S. Army Divisions during World War I; 12th Division, 23rd Infantry Brigade, 73rd Infantry (draftees)
  11. ^ Lane, Gary (1976). I Am: A Study of E. E. Cummings' Poems. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas. pp. 41–43.kvhg. ISBN 0-7006-0144-9. 
  12. ^ E.E. Cummings: Poet And Painter
  13. ^ Marion Morehouse Cummings, Poet's Widow, Top Model, Dies , The New York Times, May 19, 1969.
  14. ^ Sawyer-Lauçanno, p. 255.
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^ Wetzsteon, Ross. 'Republic of Dreams: Greenwich Village: The American Bohemia, 1910-1960', pp. 449 [2]
  17. ^ Landles, Iain (2001). "An Analysis of Two Poems by E.E. Cummings". SPRING, the Journal of the E. E. Cummings Society 10: 31–43. 
  18. ^ [3]
  19. ^ Kennedy, p. 295.
  20. ^ "E.E. Cummings Dies of Stroke. Poet Stood for Stylistic Liberty". New York Times. September 4, 1962. 
  21. ^ Friedman, Norman (1964). e e cummings: The Growth of a Writer. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. 
  22. ^ Friedman, Norman (1995). "Not "e. e. cummings" Revisited". Spring 5: 41–43. http://www.gvsu.edu/english/cummings/caps2.html. Retrieved 2007-05-12. 
  23. ^ Friedman, Norman (1992). "Not "e. e. cummings"". Spring 1: 114–121. http://www.gvsu.edu/english/cummings/caps.htm. Retrieved 2005-12-13. 

References

  • Bloom, Harold, Twentieth-century American literature, New York : Chelsea House Publishers, 1985-1988. ISBN 9780877548027.
  • Cohen, Milton A. (1987). POETandPAINTER: The Aesthetics of E. E. Cummings' Early Work. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 9780814318454. 
  • Friedman, Norman (editor), E. E. Cummings: A Collection of Critical Essays.
  • Friedman, Norman, E. E. Cummings: The Art of his Poetry.
  • James, George, E. E. Cummings: A Bibliography.
  • Kennedy, Richard S. (October 17, 1994) [1980]. Dreams in the Mirror (2nd ed.). New York: Liveright. ISBN 087140155X. 
  • McBride, Katharine, A Concordance to the Complete Poems of E.E.Cummings.
  • Mott, Christopher. "The Cummings Line on Race." Spring: The Journal of the E. E. Cummings Society, vol. 4, pp. 71-75, Fall 1995.
  • Norman, Charles, E. E. Cummings: The Magic-Maker, Boston, Little Brown, 1972.
  • Sawyer-Lauçanno, Christopher, E.E. Cummings: A Biography, Sourcebooks, Inc. (2004) ISBN 9781570717758.

External links

Audio recordings

Public domain poetry and readings:


E. E. Cummings
File:E. E. Cummings
E. E. Cummings in 1953
Born Edward Estlin Cummings
October 14, 1894(1894-10-14)
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Died September 3, 1962 (aged 67)
North Conway, New Hampshire
Cause of death Stroke
Resting place Forest Hills Cemetery
Known for poems and other works of art
Influenced by Amy Lowell, Gertrude Stein
Influenced Richard Brautigan
Religion Unitarian
Spouse Elaine Orr
Anne Minnerly Barton
Marion Morehouse
Children Nancy, daughter with Elaine Orr
Parents Edward Cummings
Rebecca Haswell Clarke
Relatives Elizabeth Cummings, sister

Edward Estlin Cummings (October 14, 1894 – September 3, 1962), popularly known as E. E. Cummings, with the abbreviated form of his name often written by others in lowercase letters as ee cummings (in the style of some of his poems), was an American poet, painter, essayist, author, and playwright. His body of work encompasses approximately 2,900 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays and several essays, as well as numerous drawings and paintings. He is remembered as a preeminent voice of 20th century poetry, as well as one of the most popular.

Contents

Early years

Cummings was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on October 14, 1894, elder of two children to Edward Cummings and Rebecca Haswell Clarke.[1] His younger sister, Elizabeth, was born in 1901.

He was named after his father but his family called him by his middle name, Estlin.[2] His father was a professor of sociology and political science at Harvard University and later a Unitarian minister.[3] Cummings described his father as a person who could accomplish anything that he wanted to. Edward was well skilled and was always working on repairing things. He and his son were close, and Edward was one of Estlin's most ardent supporters.

His mother never partook in stereotypically "feminine" things, and enjoyed reading poetry to her children. Raised in a well-educated family, Cummings was a precocious boy and his mother encouraged Estlin to write poetry every day. He wrote his first poem when he was only three: "Oh,the pretty birdie,O;/with his little toe,toe,toe!"[4]

His boyhood home, the E. E. Cummings House, is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[5]

Education

Cummings enrolled at Harvard University in September 1911, from which he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1915, graduating magna cum laude, and in the next year completed his Master's degree in English and Classical Studies also at Harvard.[6] While at Harvard, he befriended John Dos Passos, at one time rooming in Thayer Hall, named after the family of one of his Harvard acquaintances, Scofield Thayer, and not yet a freshman-only dormitory.[7] Several of Cummings' poems were published in the Harvard Monthly as early as his sophomore year. Cummings himself labored on the school newspaper alongside fellow Harvard Aesthetes John Dos Passos and S. Foster Damon. In 1915, his poems were published in the Harvard Advocate.

In his final year at Harvard, Cummings was influenced by writers such as Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. He delivered a controversial commencement address to his graduating class entitled "The New Art". This speech gave him his first taste of notoriety, as he managed to give the false impression that the well-liked imagist poet, Amy Lowell, whom he himself admired, was "abnormal". For this, Cummings was chastised in the newspapers. In 1917, Cummings' first published poems appeared in a collection of poetry entitled Eight Harvard Poets.

Career

In 1917 Cummings enlisted in the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps, along with his college friend John Dos Passos. Due to an administrative mix-up, Cummings was not assigned to an ambulance unit for five weeks, during which time he stayed in Paris. He fell in love with the city, to which he would return throughout his life.[6]

During their service in the ambulance corp, they had sent letters home that drew the attention of the military censors and preferred the company of French soldiers over fellow ambulance drivers. The two openly expressed anti-war views; Cummings spoke of his lack of hatred for the Germans.[8] On September 21, 1917, just five months after his belated assignment, he and a friend, William Slater Brown were arrested by the French military on suspicion of espionage and undesirable activities. They were held for 3½ months in a concentration camp at the Dépôt de Triage, in La Ferté-Macé, Orne, Normandy.[6]

They were imprisoned with other detainees in a large room. Cummings' father failed to obtain his son's release through diplomatic channels and in December 1917 finally wrote a letter to President Wilson. Cummings was released on December 19, 1917, and Brown was released two months later. Cummings used his prison experience as the basis for his novel, The Enormous Room about which F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "Of all the work by young men who have sprung up since 1920 one book survives—The Enormous Room by e e cummings....Those few who cause books to live have not been able to endure the thought of its mortality."[9]

Cummings returned to the United States on New Year's Day 1918. Later in 1918 he was drafted into the army. He served in the 12th Division at Camp Devens, Massachusetts, until November 1918.[10][11]

Cummings returned to Paris in 1921 and remained there for two years before returning to New York. During the rest of the 1920s and 1930s he returned to Paris a number of times, and traveled throughout Europe, meeting, among others, Pablo Picasso. In 1931 Cummings traveled to the Soviet Union and recounted his experiences in Eimi, published two years later. During these years Cummings also traveled to Northern Africa and Mexico and worked as an essayist and portrait artist for Vanity Fair magazine (1924 to 1927).

Cummings' papers are held at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.[6]

Personal life

In 1926, Cummings' father was killed in a car accident. Though severely injured, Cummings' mother survived. Cummings detailed the accident in the following passage from his i: six nonlectures series given at Harvard (as part of the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) in 1952–1953:

... a locomotive cut the car in half, killing my father instantly. When two brakemen jumped from the halted train, they saw a woman standing – dazed but erect – beside a mangled machine; with blood spouting (as the older said to me) out of her head. One of her hands (the younger added) kept feeling her dress, as if trying to discover why it was wet. These men took my sixty-six year old mother by the arms and tried to lead her toward a nearby farmhouse; but she threw them off, strode straight to my father's body, and directed a group of scared spectators to cover him. When this had been done (and only then) she let them lead her away.

His father's death had a profound impact on Cummings, who entered a new period in his artistic life. Cummings began to focus on more important aspects of life in his poetry. He began this new period by paying homage to his father's memory in the poem "my father moved through dooms of love"[12][13]

Born into a Unitarian family, Cummings exhibited transcendental leanings his entire life. As he grew in maturity and age, Cummings moved more toward an "I, Thou" relationship with God. His journals are replete with references to “le bon Dieu” as well as prayers for inspiration in his poetry and artwork (such as “Bon Dieu! may I some day do something truly great. amen.”). Cummings "also prayed for strength to be his essential self ('may I be I is the only prayer--not may I be great or good or beautiful or wise or strong'), and for relief of spirit in times of depression ('almighty God! I thank thee for my soul; & may I never die spiritually into a mere mind through disease of loneliness')."[14]

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

Marriages

Cummings was married briefly twice. Cummings' first marriage, to Elaine Orr, began as a love affair in 1918 while she was married to Scofield Thayer, one of Cummings' friends from Harvard. The affair produced a daughter, Nancy, born on December 20, 1919. Nancy was Cummings' only child. After divorcing Thayer, Elaine married Cummings on March 19, 1924. However, the marriage ended after two months and they were divorced less than nine months later. Elaine left Cummings for a wealthy Irish banker, moved to Ireland, and took Nancy with her. Under the terms of the divorce Cummings was granted custody of Nancy for three months each year, but Elaine refused to abide by the agreement. Cummings did not see his daughter again until 1946.

He married his second wife Anne Minnerly Barton on May 1, 1929, and they separated three years later in 1932. That same year, Anne obtained a Mexican divorce that was not officially recognized in the United States until August 1934.

The year Cummings and Anne separated, he met Marion Morehouse, a fashion model and photographer. Although it is not clear whether the two were ever legally married, Morehouse lived with Cummings in a common-law marriage until his death in 1962. Morehouse died on May 18, 1969,[15] while living at 4 Patchin Place, Greenwich Village, New York City, where Cummings had resided since September 8, 1924.[16]

Political views

A liberal in his early youth, Cummings' disillusion upon his trip to the Soviet Union in 1931, documented in Eimi, led him to shift rightward on many political and social issues.[17] Despite his radical and bohemian public image, he was a Republican and, later, an ardent supporter of Joseph McCarthy.[18]

Poetry

Despite Cummings' consanguinity with avant-garde styles, much of his work is quite traditional. Many of his poems are sonnets, albeit often with a modern twist, and he occasionally made use of the blues form and acrostics. 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 also often rife with satire.

While his poetic forms and themes share an affinity with the romantic tradition, Cummings' 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 punctuation innovations at all, but purely syntactic ones.

As well as being influenced by notable modernists including Gertrude Stein and Ezra 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. Cummings also liked to incorporate imagery of nature and death into much of his poetry.

While some of his poetry is free verse (with no concern for rhyme or meter), many 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. Cummings, who was also a painter, understood the importance of presentation, and used typography to "paint a picture" with some of his poems.[19]

The seeds of Cummings' unconventional style appear well established even in his earliest work. At age six, he wrote to his father:

FATHER DEAR. BE, YOUR FATHER-GOOD AND GOOD,
HE IS GOOD NOW, IT IS NOT GOOD TO SEE IT RAIN,
FATHER DEAR IS, IT, DEAR, NO FATHER DEAR,
LOVE, YOU DEAR,
ESTLIN.

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

Some of Cummings' most famous poems do not involve much, if any, odd typography or punctuation, but still carry his unmistakable style, particularly in unusual and impressionistic word order. For example, "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"?

's/ defunct" from the January 1920 issue of The Dial.]]

Readers sometimes experience a jarring, incomprehensible effect with Cummings' work, as the poems do not act in accordance with the conventional combinatorial rules that generate typical English sentences (for example, "why must itself..." or "they sowed their isn't..."). His readings of Stein in the early part of the century probably served as a springboard to 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' work is more stylistically continuous 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, and several incorporate phonetic spellings intended to represent particular dialects. Cummings also made use of inventive formations of compound words, as in "in Just"[20] which features words such as "mud-luscious", "puddle-wonderful", and "eddieandbill." This poem is part of a sequence of poems entitled Chansons Innocentes; it has many references comparing the "balloonman" to Pan, the mythical creature that is half-goat and half-man.

Many of Cummings' poems are satirical and address social issues (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 the season of rebirth (see "anyone lived in a pretty how town" in its entirety).

Cummings' 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.

Examples of Cummings' unorthodox typographical style can be seen in his poem "The sky was candy luminous".[21]

His books still sell well.[22]

Plays

During his lifetime, Cummings published four plays.

HIM, a three-act play, was first produced in 1928 by the Provincetown Players in New York City. The production was directed by James Light. The play's main characters are "Him", a playwright, and "Me", his girlfriend. Cummings said of the unorthodox play:

Relax and give the play a chance to strut its stuff—relax, stop wondering what it is all 'about'—like many strange and familiar things, Life included, this play isn't 'about,' it simply is. . . . Don't try to enjoy it, let it try to enjoy you. DON'T TRY TO UNDERSTAND IT, LET IT TRY TO UNDERSTAND YOU."[23]

Anthropos, or the Future of Art is a short, one-act play that Cummings contributed to the anthology Whither, Whither or After Sex, What? A Symposium to End Symposium. The play consists of dialogue between Man, the main character, and three "infrahumans", or inferior beings. The word anthropos is the Greek word for "man", in the sense of "mankind".

Tom, A Ballet is a ballet based on Uncle Tom's Cabin. The ballet is detailed in a "synopsis" as well as descriptions of four "episodes", which were published by Cummings in 1935. It has never been performed. More information about the play as well as an illustration can be found at GVSU.edu from the E. E. Cummings Society.

Santa Claus: A Morality was probably Cummings' most successful play. It is an allegorical Christmas fantasy presented in one act of five scenes. The play was inspired by his daughter Nancy, with whom he was reunited in 1946. It was first published in the Harvard College magazine the Wake. The play's main characters are Santa Claus, his family (Woman and Child), Death, and Mob. At the outset of the play, Santa Claus' family has disintegrated due to their lust for knowledge (Science). After a series of events, however, Santa Claus' faith in love and his rejection of the materialism and disappointment he associates with Science are reaffirmed, and he is reunited with Woman and Child.

Final years and death

of E. E. Cummings]]

In 1952, his alma mater, Harvard, awarded Cummings an honorary seat as a guest professor. The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures he gave in 1952 and 1955 were later collected as i: six nonlectures.

Cummings spent the last decade of his life traveling, fulfilling speaking engagements, and spending time at his summer home, Joy Farm, in Silver Lake, New Hampshire.

He died of a stroke on September 3, 1962, at the age of 67 in North Conway, New Hampshire at the Memorial Hospital.[24] His cremated remains were buried in Lot 748 Althaeas Path, in Section 6, Forest Hills Cemetery and Crematory in Boston. In 1969, his third wife, Marion Morehouse Cummings, died and was buried in an adjoining plot.

Name and capitalization

Cummings' publishers and others have sometimes echoed the unconventional orthography in his poetry by writing his name in lowercase and without periods. Cummings himself used both the lowercase and capitalized versions. According to his widow, he did not (as reported in the preface of one book[25]) have his name legally changed to "e e cummings". On the contrary, he wrote to his French translator that he preferred the capitalized version ("may it not be tricksy").[26] One Cummings scholar believes that on the rare occasions that Cummings signed his name in all-lowercase, he may have intended it as a gesture of humility, not as an indication that it was the preferred orthography for others to use.[27]

Awards

During his lifetime, Cummings received numerous awards in recognition of his work, including:

Works

See also

Others influenced by the spelling include:

Notes

  1. ^ Kennedy, p. 9.
  2. ^ Sawyer-Lauçanno, p. 1.
  3. ^ Kennedy, p. 10.
  4. ^ Cummings, E. E. (1953). Six Nonlectures. Harvard University Press. p. 28. ISBN 9780674440104. http://books.google.com/?id=RKhX4YnTP-cC&printsec=frontcover&dq=six+nonlectures&q=birdie. 
  5. ^ Reuben, Paul P. "E. E. Cummings (1894-1962)". PAL: Perspectives in American Literature - A Research and Reference Guide - An Ongoing Project. http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap7/cummings.html. Retrieved 2009-10-29. 
  6. ^ a b c d "E. E. Cummings: An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center". Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center. http://research.hrc.utexas.edu:8080/hrcxtf/view?docId=ead/00030.xml. Retrieved 9 May 2010. 
  7. ^ Harvard Freshman Pamphlet, 1996.
  8. ^ Friedman, Norman "Cummings, E[dward] E[stlin]" in Steven Serafin The Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature, 2003, Continuum, p. 244.
  9. ^ Bloom, p. 1814.
  10. ^ Kennedy, p. 186.
  11. ^ Data on U.S. Army Divisions during World War I; 12th Division, 23rd Infantry Brigade, 73rd Infantry (draftees)
  12. ^ "My father moved through dooms of love". http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~richie/poetry/html/aupoem114.html. 
  13. ^ Lane, Gary (1976). I Am: A Study of E. E. Cummings' Poems. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas. pp. 41–43. ISBN 0-7006-0144-9. 
  14. ^ "E. E. Cummings: Poet And Painter". http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/unitarians/cummings.html. 
  15. ^ Marion Morehouse Cummings, Poet's Widow, Top Model, Dies , The New York Times, May 19, 1969.
  16. ^ Sawyer-Lauçanno, p. 255.
  17. ^ College.cengage.com
  18. ^ Wetzsteon, Ross. 'Republic of Dreams: Greenwich Village: The American Bohemia, 1910-1960', pp. 449 Google Books
  19. ^ Landles, Iain (2001). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "An Analysis of Two Poems by E. E. Cummings"]. SPRING, the Journal of the E. E. Cummings Society 10: 31–43. 
  20. ^ "in Just". http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/images/modeng/public/Cum2Dia/. 
  21. ^ "The sky was candy luminous...". http://infocom.cqu.edu.au/Courses/2002/T3/MMST11001/course_site/images/readings/Cummings.gif. 
  22. ^ "100 Selected Poems publisher=amazon.com". http://www.amazon.com/dp/0802130720. 
  23. ^ Kennedy, p. 295.
  24. ^ "E. E. Cummings Dies of Stroke. Poet Stood for Stylistic Liberty". New York Times. September 4, 1962. 
  25. ^ Friedman, Norman (1964). e e cummings: The Growth of a Writer. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. 
  26. ^ Friedman, Norman (1995). "Not "e. e. cummings" Revisited". Spring 5: 41–43. http://www.gvsu.edu/english/cummings/caps2.html. Retrieved 2007-05-12. 
  27. ^ Friedman, Norman (1992). "Not "e. e. cummings"". Spring 1: 114–121. http://www.gvsu.edu/english/cummings/caps.htm. Retrieved 2005-12-13. 

References

  • Bloom, Harold, Twentieth-century American literature, New York : Chelsea House Publishers, 1985-1988. ISBN 9780877548027.
  • Cohen, Milton A. (1987). POETandPAINTER: The Aesthetics of E. E. Cummings' Early Work. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 9780814318454. 
  • Friedman, Norman (editor), E. E. Cummings: A Collection of Critical Essays.
  • Friedman, Norman, E. E. Cummings: The Art of his Poetry.
  • James, George, E. E. Cummings: A Bibliography.
  • Kennedy, Richard S. (October 17, 1994) [1980]. Dreams in the Mirror (2nd ed.). New York: Liveright. ISBN 087140155X. 
  • McBride, Katharine, A Concordance to the Complete Poems of E.E.Cummings.
  • Mott, Christopher. "The Cummings Line on Race." Spring: The Journal of the E. E. Cummings Society, vol. 4, pp. 71–75, Fall 1995.
  • Norman, Charles, E. E. Cummings: The Magic-Maker, Boston, Little Brown, 1972.
  • Sawyer-Lauçanno, Christopher, E. E. Cummings: A Biography, Sourcebooks, Inc. (2004) ISBN 9781570717758.

External links

Audio recordings

Public domain poetry and readings:


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

E. E. Cummings, self-portrait (c. 1920) Poetry and every other art was and is and forever will be strictly and distinctly a question of individuality....poetry is being, not doing....if poetry is your goal, you've got to forget all about punishments and all about rewards and all about selfstyled obligations and duties and responsibilities . . .

Edward Estlin Cummings (1894-10-141962-09-03) was a noted American poet. Because of the typography used in many of his works it has become a widespread tradition for his name to be presented in lower case as e. e. cummings, though he himself continued to use uppercase letters in signing his own name.

Contents

Sourced

The typography of some of these quotes may seem incorrect: it probably isn't. Outside of some bolding for emphasis of well noted or notable statements, and a few marks of ellipsis "…" for gaps, the author's often odd original typograpy has been retained, so much as possible, in many of the quotes.

  • Life,for eternal us,is now

Introduction to Poems 1924-1954

  • Writing...is an art; and artists...are human beings. As a human being stands, so a human being is....
    • The Enormous Room (1922)
  • All in green went my love riding
    on a great horse of gold
    into the silver dawn.
    • Tulips and Chimneys (1923) IV
  • it's spring when the world is puddle-wonderful
    • Tulips and Chimneys (1923) in Just-
  • So, ungentle reader, (as you and I value what we should ashamed—after witnessing a few minor circus-marvels—to call our "lives,") let us never be fooled into taking seriously that perfectly superficial distinction which is vulgarly drawn between the circus-show and "art" or "the arts." Let us not forget that every authentic "work of art" is in and of itself alive and that, however "the arts" may differ among themselves, their common function is the expression of that supreme alive-ness which is known as "beauty." This being so, our three ring circus is art—for to contend that the spectacle in question is not an authentic manifestation of "beauty" is as childish, as to dismiss the circus on the ground that it is "childish," is idiotic.
    • "The Adult, the Artist and the Circus." Vanity Fair (October 1925)
  • somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
    any experience, your eyes have their silence.
    in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
    or which i cannot touch because they are too near

    your slightest look easily will unclose me
    though i have closed myself as fingers,
    you always open petal by petal myself as Spring opens
    (touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

    nothing that we are to perceive in this world equals the power of your intense fragility:

    (i do not know what it is about you that closes
    and opens;only something in me understands
    the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
    nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands
    • W [ViVa] (1931) LVII
  • My theory of technique, if I have one, is very far from original; nor is it complicated. I can express it in fifteen words, by quoting The Eternal Question And Immortal Answer of burlesk, viz. "Would you hit a woman with a child?— No, I'd hit her with a brick." Like the burlesk comedian, I am abnormally fond of that precision which creates movement.
    • EIMI (1933)
  • I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing
    than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.
    • Collected Poems (1938) New Poems 22
  • Art is a mystery.
    A mystery is something immeasurable.
    In so far as every child and woman and man may be immeasurable, art is the mystery of every man and woman and child. In so far as a human being is an artist, skies and mountains and oceans and thunderbolts and butterflies are immeasurable; and art is every mystery of nature.
    Nothing measurable can be alive; nothing which is not alive can be art; nothing which cannot be art is true: and everything untrue doesn’t matter a very good God damn...
    • "Foreword to an Exhibit: I" (1944)
  • Why do you paint?
    For exactly the same reason I breathe.
    That’s not an answer.
    There isn’t any answer.
    How long hasn’t there been any answer?
    As long as I can remember.
    And how long have you written?
    As long as I can remember.
    I mean poetry.
    So do I.
    • "Forward to an Exhibit: II" (1945)
  • Your poems are rather hard to understand, whereas your paintings are so easy.
    Easy?
    Of course—you paint flowers and girls and sunsets; things that everybody understands.
    I never met him.
    Who?
    Everybody.
    Did you ever hear of nonrepresentational painting?
    I am.
    Pardon me?
    I am a painter, and painting is nonrepresentational.
    Not all painting.
    No: housepainting is representational.
    And what does a housepainter represent?
    Ten dollars an hour.
    In other words, you don’t want to be serious—
    It takes two to be serious.
    • "Forward to an Exhibit: II" (1945)

is 5 (1926)

  • There are certain things in which one is unable to believe for the simple reason that he never ceases to feel them. Things of this sort— things which are always inside of us and in fact are us and which consequently will not be pushed off or away where we can begin thinking about them— are no longer things; they, and the us which they are, equals A Verb; an IS.
    • Foreword
  • a man who had fallen among thieves
    lay by the roadside on his back
    dressed in fifteenthrate ideas
    wearing a round jeer for a hat
    • One XXVIII
  • wholly to be a fool
    while Spring is in the world

    my blood approves,
    and kisses are a better fate
    than wisdom
    • Four VII
  • life's not a paragraph
    And death i think is no parenthesis
    • Four VII

Him (1927)

  • Here life is, moves; faintly. A wrist. The faint throb of blood, precise, miraculous . . . And they talk of dying! The blood delicately descending and ascending: making an arm. Being an arm. The warm flesh, the dim slender flesh filled with life, slenderer than a miracle, frailer . . . These are the shoulders through which fell the world. The dangerous shoulders of Eve, in god's entire garden newly strolling.
  • A distinct throat. Which breathes. A head: small, smaller than a flower. With eyes and with lips. Lips more slender than light; a smile how carefully and slowly made, a smile made entirely of dream. Eyes deeper than Spring. Eyes darker than Spring, more new . . . These, these are the further miracles . . . the breasts. Thighs. The All which is beyond comprehension — the All which is perpetually discovered, yet undiscovered: sexual, sweet, Alive!
  • It may take two people to make a really beautiful mistake

50 Poems (1940)

  • ye!the godless are the dull and the dull are the damned
    • 13
  • 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…
    all by all and deep by deep
    and more by more they dream their sleep
    • 29
  • my father moved through dooms of love
    through sames of am through haves of give
    singing each morning out of each night
    my father moved through depths of height
    • 34
  • and nothing quite so least as truth
    —i say though hate were why men breathe—
    because my father lived his soul
    love is the whole and more than all
    • 34
  • love is the every only god
    • 38
  • love is more thicker than forget
    …it is more sane and sunly
    and more it cannot die
    than all the sky which only
    is higher than the sky
    • 42
  • measureless our pure living complete love
    whose doom is beauty and its fate to grow
    • 50
  • on forever's very now we stand
    • 50

1 x 1 (1944)

also known as One Times One

  • a politician is an arse upon
    which everyone has sat except a man
    • X
  • —when skies are hanged and oceans drowned, the single secret will still be man
    • XX
  • what if a dawn of a doom of a dream
    bites this universe in two,
    peels forever out of it's grave
    and sprinkles nowhere with me and you?
    • XX
  • no sunbeam ever lies
    • XXX
  • true wars are never won
    • XXX
  • 'and liars kill their kind
    but' her,my 'love creates love only' our
    • XXXII
  • nothing false and possible is love
    (who's imagined, therefore limitless)
    love's to giving as to keeping's give; as yes is to if, love is to yes
    • XXXIV
  • true lovers in each happening of their hearts
    live longer than all which and every who;
    • XXXVI
  • yes is a pleasant country…
    love is a deeper season
    than reason
    • XXXVIII
  • —tommorow is our permanent address
    and there they'll scarcely find us(if they do,
    we'll move away still further:into now
    • XXXIX
  • nothing except the impossible shall occur
    • XLII

A Foreword to Krazy (1946)

First published as the Foreword to a collection of Krazy Kat comic strips (1946), later published in A Miscellany Revised (1965)

  • What concerns me fundamentaly is a meteoric burlesk melodrama, born of the immemorial adage love will find a way.
  • A humbly poetic, gently clownlike, supremely innocent, and illimitably affectionate creature (slightly resembling a child's drawing of a cat, but gifted with the secret grace and obvious clumsiness of a penguin on terra firma) who is never so happy as when egoist-mouse, thwarting altruist-dog, hits her in the head with a brick. Dog hates mouse and worships "cat", mouse despises "cat" and hates dog, "cat" hates no one and loves mouse.
  • If you're a twofisted, spineless progressive (a mighty fashionable stance nowadays) Offissa Pupp, who forcefully asserts the will of socalled society, becomes a cosmic angel; while Ignatz Mouse, who forcefully defies society's socalled will by asserting his authentic own, becomes a demon of anarchy and a fiend of chaos. But if — whisper it — you're a 100% hidebound reactionary, the foot's in the other shoe. Ignatz Mouse then stands forth as a hero, pluckily struggling to keep the flag of free will flying; while Offissa Pupp assumes the monstrous mien of a Goliath, satanically bullying a tiny but indomitable David. Well, let's flip the coin — so: and lo! Offissa Pupp comes up. That makes Ignatz Mouse "tails." Now we have a hero whose heart has gone to his head and a villain whose head has gone to his heart.
  • This hero and villain no more understand Krazy Kat than the mythical denizens of a two dimensional realm understand some three dimensional intruder. The world of Offissa Pupp and Ignatz Mouse is a knowledgeable power-world, in terms of which our unknowledgeable heroine is powerlessness personified. The sensical law of this world is might makes right; the nonsensical law of our heroine is love conquers all. To put the oak in the acorn: Ignatz Mouse and Offissa Puppers all. To put the oak in the acorn: Ignatz Mouse and Offissa Pupp (each completely convinced that his own particular brand of might makes right) are simple-minded — Krazy isn't — therefore, to Offissa Pupp and Ignatz Mouse, Krazy is. But if both our hero and our villain don't and can't understand our heroine, each of them can and each of them does misunderstand her differently. To our softhearted altruist, she is the adorably helpless incarnation of saintliness. To our hardhearted egoist, she is the puzzlingly indestructible embodiment of idiocy. The benevolent overdog sees her as an inspired weakling. The malevolent undermouse views her as a born target. Meanwhile Krazy Kat, through this double misunderstanding, fulfills her joyous destiny.

XAIPE (1950)

  • out of the mountain of his soul
    comes a keen pure silence
    • 19
  • blossoming are people…
    all the earth has turned to sky
    …and i am you are i am we
    • 32
  • i feel that(false and true are merely to know)
    Love only has ever been,is,and will ever be,So
    • 33
  • i thank You God for most this amazing
    day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
    and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
    which is natural which is infinite which is yes
  • i who have died am alive again today,
    and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
    day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
    great happening illimitably earth
    • 65
  • how should tasting touching hearing seeing
    breathing any — lifted from the no
    of all nothing — human merely being
    doubt unimaginable You?
    • 65
  • now the ears of my ears awake and
    now the eyes of my eyes are opened
    • 65
  • —the great my darling happens to be
    that love are in we, that love are in we
    • 66
  • completely dare
    be beautiful
    • 68
  • more each particular person is(my love)
    alive than every world can understand
    and now you are and i am now and we're
    a mystery that will never happen again, a miracle which has never happened before—
    and shining this our now must come to then
    • 69

i : six nonlectures (1953)

  • poetry and every other art was and is and forever will be strictly and distinctly a question of individuality....poetry is being, not doing....if poetry is your goal, you've got to forget all about punishments and all about rewards and all about selfstyled obligations and duties and responsibilities . . .
    • "i & their son: Nonlecture Two"
  • The one...thing which mattered about any poem (so ran my second poetic period's credo) was what the poem said; it's socalled meaning.... Thus it will be seen that, by the year 1900, one growing American boy had reached exactly that stage of "intellectual development" beyond which every ungrowing Marxist adult of today is strictly forbidden...ever to pass.
    • "i & you & is: Nonlecture Four"
  • concerning this selfstyled world's greatest and most generous literary figure: who had just arrived in our nation's capitol, attired in half a GI uniform and ready to be hanged as a traitor by the only country which ever made even a pretense of fighting for freedom of speech
    Re Ezra Pound — poetry happens to be an art;and artists happen to be human beings.
    • Re Ezra Pound (p. 69)
  • An artist doesn't live in some geographical abstraction,superimposed on a part of this beautiful earth by the nonimagination of unanimals and dedicated to the proposition that massacre is a social virtue because murder is an individual vice. Nor does an artist live in some soi-disant world,nor does he live in some so-called universe,nor does he live in any number of "worlds" or in any number of "universes." As for a few trifling delusions like the "past" and "present" and "future" of quote mankind unquote,they may be big enough for a couple of billion supermechanized submorons but they're much too small for one human being.
    • Re Ezra Pound (p. 69)
  • Every artist's strictly illimitable country is himself.
    An artist who plays that country false has committed suicide;and even a good lawyer cannot kill the dead. But a human being who's true to himself — whoever himself may be — is immortal;and all the atomic bombs of all the antiartists in spacetime will never civilize immortality.
    • Re Ezra Pound (p. 69)

95 poems (1958)

  • the courage to receive time's mightiest dream
    • 3
  • no evil is
    so worse than worst you fall in hate with love


    —human one mortally immortal i
    can turn immense all time's because to why
    • 7
  • though mankind persuades
    itself that every weed's
    a rose,roses(you feel
    certain) will only smile
    • 72
  • seeming's enough for slaves of space and time
    —ours is the now and here of freedom. Come
    • 73
  • Time's a strange fellow;
    more he gives than takes
    (and he takes all)
    • 78
  • a million thousand hundred nothings seem
    —we are himself's own self;his very him
    • 84
  • exists no miracle mightier than this:to feel
    • 89
  • dreamtree,truthtree tree of jubilee:with aeons of (trivial merely)existence,all when may not measure a now of your treasure
    • 90
  • each ignorant gladness —unteaches what despair preaches
    • 90
  • unlove's the heavenless hell and the homeless home
    • 91
  • lovers alone wear sunlight
    • 91
  • The whole truth…
    sings only —and all lovers are the song
    • 91
  • it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
    and whatever a sun will always sing is you
    • 92

A Poet's Advice (1958)

"A Poet's Advice to Students" in E. E. Cummings, a Miscellany: A Miscellany (1958), edited by George James Firmage, p. 13
  • Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel
    the moment you feel, you're nobody-but-yourself.
    To be nobody-but-yourself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else— means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
  • nothing is quite as easy as using words like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time —and whenever we do it, we are not poets.
  • my advice to all young people who wish to become poets is: do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world —unless you're not only willing, but glad, to feel and work and fight till you die.
    Does this sound dismal? It isn't.
    It's the most wonderful life on earth.
    Or so I feel.
—E. E. Cummings

73 poems (1963)

  • follow no path
    all paths lead where

    truth is here
    • 3
  • it's love by whom (my beautiful friend) the gift to live is without until:
    …love was and shall be this only truth (a dream of a deed, born not to die)
    • 4
  • it's so damn sweet when Anybody—
    …makes you feel
    …for once
    (imag
    -ine) You
    • 7
  • because it's

    Spring
    thingS

    dare to do people
    • 10
  • a great
    man
    is
    gone.

    Tall as the truth was who; and
    wore his
    … life
    like a …
    sky.
    • 14
  • they flock and they flee through the thunder of seem
    though the stars in their silence
    say Be.
    • 29
  • the cunning the craven
    … they live for until
    though the sun in his heaven
    says Now
    • 29
  • they work and they pray
    and they bow to a must
    though the earth in her splendor
    says May
    • 29
  • without any doubt he was
    whatever(first and last)

    most people fear most:
    a mystery for which iv'e
    no word except alive
    • 30
  • Mostpeople have been heard
    screaming for international
    measures that render hell rational

    —i thank heaven somebody's crazy
    enough to give me a daisy
    • 30
  • we sans love equals mob
    • 31
  • unbeingdead isn't beingalive
    • 31
  • all which isn't singing is mere talking

    and all talking's to oneself alone
    but the very song of(as mountains
    feel and lovers)singing is silence
    • 32
  • hugest whole creation may be less
    incalculable than a single kiss
    • 37
  • now I lay me down to dream of(nothing
    i or any somebody or you
    can begin to begin to imagine) something which nobody may keep.
    • 44
  • the axis of the universe
    —love
    • 73

Unsourced

  • The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.
  • a salesman is an it that stinks [part of a title of one of his poems, published in 1944)
  • Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.
  • Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness: the truth more first than sun, more last than star... [from "being to timelessness as it's to time," published 1958]
  • I'm living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart.
  • Humanity I love you because when you're hard up you pawn your intelligence to buy a drink.
  • America makes prodigious mistakes, America has colossal faults, but one thing cannot be denied: America is always on the move. She may be going to Hell, of course, but at least she isn't standing still.
  • It takes three to make a child.
  • At least the Pilgrim Fathers used to shoot Indians: the Pilgrim Children merely punch time clocks.
  • When god decided to invent everything he took one reath bigger than a circustent and everything began.
  • It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.
  • may came home with a smooth round stone

as small as the world and as big as alone

for whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it's always ourselves we find in the sea

    • Maggie and Millie and Molly and May

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