- Cummings, E.E.
▪ American poetborn October 14, 1894, Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.died September 3, 1962, North Conway, New HampshireAmerican poet and painter who first attracted attention, in an age of literary experimentation, for his eccentric punctuation and phrasing. The spirit of New England dissent and of Emersonian “Self-Reliance” underlies the urbanized Yankee colloquialism of Cummings's verse. Cummings's name is often styled “e.e. cummings” in the mistaken belief that the poet legally changed his name to lowercase letters only. Cummings used capital letters only irregularly in his verse and did not object when publishers began lowercasing his name, but he himself capitalized his name in his signature and in the title pages of original editions of his books.Cummings received his B.A. degree from Harvard University in 1915 and was awarded his M.A. in 1916. During World War I he served with an ambulance corps in France, where he was interned for a time in a detention camp because of his friendship with an American who had written letters home that the French censors thought critical of the war effort. This experience deepened Cummings's distrust of officialdom and was symbolically recounted in his first book, The Enormous Room (1922).In the 1920s and '30s he divided his time between Paris, where he studied art, and New York City. His first book of verse was Tulips and Chimneys (1923), followed by XLI Poems and & (1925); in the latter year he received the Dial award for distinguished service to American letters.In 1927 his play him was produced by the Provincetown Players in New York City. During these years he exhibited his paintings and drawings, but they failed to attract as much critical interest as his writings. Eimi (1933) recorded, in 432 pages of experimental prose, a 36-day visit to the Soviet Union, which confirmed his individualist repugnance for collectivism. He published his discussions as the Charles Eliot Norton lecturer on poetry at Harvard University (1952–53) under the title i: six nonlectures (1953).In all he wrote 12 volumes of verse, assembled in his two-volume Complete Poems (1968). Cummings's moods were alternately satirical and tough or tender and whimsical. He frequently used the language of the streets and material from burlesque and the circus. His erotic poetry and love lyrics had a childlike candour and freshness.
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