E. E. Cummings: The Life of One of America’s Premier Poets

December 12, 2011

By Refel Rushing

Born in 1894 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Edward Estlin Cummings was raised as a Unitarian, and he maintained a relationship with God throughout his life. His passion for poetry began early, and he began writing at age eight. After attending Harvard University, E. E. Cummings worked at a bookstore and subsequently joined the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps when World War I began. During this experience, he developed an admiration for Paris.

However, he was also arrested during this time under suspicion of espionage, because he expressed his lack of support for the war in letters back home to the United States; this event influenced his autobiographical novel, The Enormous Room, which was published in 1922. Upon returning to the US, Cummings had a child, Nancy, with a friend’s wife, Elaine Orr, and was drafted into the army. He returned to the US from France for the second time in 1921 and began publishing poetry. He married Orr in 1924, they divorced nine months after, and she kept him from seeing his daughter for more than two decades.

Several years later, his father was killed when a train collided with his car, causing Cummings to reevaluate and refocus his poetry on more serious subjects. Throughout the following decades, Cummings traveled throughout Europe. In 1929, he married Anne Barton, and they stayed together for three years, after which he met Marion Morehouse; he remained with her indefinitely. In his later life, Cummings became a speaker and lectured at Harvard. He died in 1962 at the age of 68 from a stroke.

Throughout his life, Cummings earned numerous recognitions, including two Guggenheim Fellowships, the Boston Arts Festival Award, and a fellowship with the American Academy of Poets. A primarily avant-garde poet and writer, some of his notable works include Tulips & Chimneys and No Thanks. In addition to creating poetry, E. E. Cummings also wrote plays, books, and short prose, and painted.


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