E.E. Cummings

March 28, 2013

Popular American poet, author, playwright, and painter E.E. Cummings remains an iconic literary voice of the 20th century. Born Edward Estlin Cummings, E.E. Cummings lived from 1894 until 1962. In addition to approximately 2,900 poems, Cummings’ vast body of work also boasts four plays, two autobiographical novels, a number of essays, and assorted drawings and paintings. E.E. Cummings is known for a writing style that often eschews traditional rules of capitalization and punctuation.

E.E. Cummings was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cummings’ father presided as Professor of Sociology and Political Science at Harvard University before transitioning to the role of Unitarian minister. A relatively nontraditional woman, Cummings’ mother regularly read poetry to her children and encouraged Cummings to write daily. In addition to gifting him with an excellent education, Cummings’ parents continued to encourage him throughout their lives.

As an undergraduate, E.E. Cummings attended Harvard University. Cummings earned a BA through Harvard in 1915, graduating magna cum laude. Cummings remained at the Massachusetts school for an additional year and at the end acquired his Masters degree in English and Classical Studies and also discovered the works of writers like Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. Upon graduation, Cummings delivered a notorious commencement speech entitled The New Art. E.E. Cummings then served in the military during the First World War. While active in the army, Cummings was stationed in Paris and it was during this period that Cummings first fell in love with the city where he would return many times throughout his life. During the war, E.E. Cummings suffered political and legal problems for his anti-war perspective.

E.E. Cummings composed his first poem at the age of three and produced a prolific body of work throughout his life. In recognition of his tremendous contributions to literature, E.E. Cummings garnered numerous prestigious awards, among them Cummings was honored with the Bollingen Prize in Poetry, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and Harvard University’s Charles Eliot Norton Professorship to name a few. In the vein of his poetic tendencies, E.E. Cummings was sometimes given to signing his own name without capitals. However, Cummings’ tendency to use the two versions interchangeably has been thought to show the lower case version indicative of an act of humility rather than a stylistic reference.


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