E. E. Cummings

Edward Estlin Cummings was born on October 14, 1894 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  He was the son of a Harvard professor, the same university where he eventually graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees himself.  It was during his time at Harvard he was introduced to such contemporaries as Ezra Pound, a fellow poet who would greatly influence his future writing.  After graduation, Cummings went to Europe to drive an ambulance during the first World War and found himself imprisoned for a time with a friend on suspicion of espionage, an experience he autobiographically wrote about in The Enormous Room.  Upon his return to the states, he embarked on a prolific career as artist, poet, playwright, and novelist.

Although he wrote many traditional sonnet-type verses, Cumming’s fame as a poet was due in large part because of his innovative style. His language was often simple, but he experimented significantly with form, using unconventional spelling, syntax, and punctuation.  His subject matter was varied and included such topics as love, nature, war, and sex. His writing was also greatly influenced by his father’s sudden death in a tragic car accident.  Cummings received many awards for his writing, including two Guggenheim Fellowships (1933, 1951), a Shelley Memorial Award for poetry (1944), Academy of American Poets Fellowship (1950), and a Bollingen Prize in Poetry (1958).  He died September 3, 1962, and is regarded today as one of the most influential American poets of the twentieth century.