Born: 14 October 1894, Massachusetts, USA
Died: 3 September 1962, New Hampshire, USA
ee cummings was a poet, painter, playwright, and author. With an oeuvre of 2900 poems, two autobiographical novels, several essays and four plays he is regarded as one of the most important American poets of the 20th century. Cummings is associated with modernist free-form poetry with much of his work composed of idiosyncratic syntax and lower-case spelling for poetic expression.
Cummings was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts to a well-known Unitarian couple. His father was a professor at Harvard University and later a well-known minister of South Congregational Church (Unitarian) in Boston. Cummings’ mother loved to spend time with her children, playing games with Cummings and his sister. From an early age, his creative gifts were supported by both his parents. He wrote poems and drew as a child as well as often playing out with the other children in the neighbourhood. Throughout his life, Cummings expressed transcendental leanings and his journals are replete with references to ‘le bon Dieu’ as well as prayers for inspiration for poetry and artwork.
Wanting to be a poet from childhood Cummings wrote poetry daily from the age of 8., exploring various forms. Graduating from Harvard University with a BA in 1915 Cummings received his MA from the university in 1916. Whilst studying at Harvard his interest in Modern poetry that ignored grammar and syntax evolved, and his aim was the use of dynamic language. After his graduation, Cummings took employment with a book dealer.
With the First World War in Europe, Cummings enlisted in the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps in 1917. He befriended William Slater Brown on the boat to France. Cummings and Brown didn’t receive an assignment for five weeks due to a clerical error so spent their time exploring Paris. Cummings fell in love with the city and would return there throughout his life. The two writers sent letters home during their service that attracted the attention of military censors. They preferred the company of French soldiers to that of fellow ambulance drivers and openly expressed anti-war opinions. Five months after Cummings started his assignment, he and William Slater Brown were arrested by the French military on suspicion of espionage and undesirable activities. For fourteen weeks the pair were held at Dépôt de Triage, a military detention centre in La Ferté-Macé, Orne, Normandy
Imprisoned with other detainees in a large room, Cummings’ father was unable to obtain his release through diplomatic channels. In December 1917 he wrote a letter to President Woodrow Wilson and was released on 19 December 1917, Brown was released two months later. Cummings used his prison experience as the basis for the novel “The Enormous Room” (1922). Cummings returned to the USA on New Year’s Day 1918. Later that year he was drafted into the army and served at Camp Devens, Massachusetts, until November 1918.
In 1921 Cummings returned to Paris and lived there for two years before returning to New York. He published his collection “Tulips and Chimneys” in 1923 and his particular use of grammar and syntax was evident. The book was heavily cut by the editor. In 1925 Cummings published “XLI Poems”. It is with these two collections that Cummings gained his reputation as an avant-garde poet. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Cummings returned to Paris several times and travelled throughout Europe. In 1931 he travelled to the Soviet Union and wrote of his experiences in “Eimi” (1933). Cummins also travelled to North Africa and Mexico. From 1924-1927 he worked as an essayist and portrait artist for Vanity Fair
Cummings’s parents were involved in a car crash in 1926; his mother survived but was severely injured. His father’s death profoundly affected Cummings who entered a new period in his creative life focussing on more important aspects of life in his poetry. He started this new stage of his writing career with “my father moved through dooms of love,” a tribute to his father.
Cummings spent the last years of his life travelling, undertaking speaking engagements, and spending time at his home, Joy Farm, in New Hampshire. He died of a stroke in 1962
E. E. Cummings: A Life by Susan Cheever
Dreams in the Mirror by RS Kennedy
my sweet old etcetera by ee cummings
my sweet old etcetera
aunt lucy during the recent
war could and what
is more did tell you just
what everybody was fighting
Isabel created hundreds
hundreds)of socks not to
mention fleaproof earwarmers
etcetera wristers etcetera, my
mother hoped that
i would die etcetera
bravely of course my father used
to become hoarse talking about how it was
a privilege and if only he
could meanwhile my
self etcetera lay quietly
in the deep mud et
eyes knees and of your Etcetera)
2 thoughts on “Mud-luscious and Puddle-wonderful”
I think the free-form poems or often more direct since they are not shackled by too much structure. Enjoyed this piece on ee cummings.
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Free Verse isn’t so unrestricted as a poet still uses poetic device, even meter and rhyme, but it is at the poet’s discretion rather a than preset
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