"To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."

Happy birthday E. E. Cummings!

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E.E. Cummings (October 14, 1894—September 3, 1962) was an American poet, playwright, author, and artist. His work became particularly popular in the 1940s and 1950s for its experimental use of punctuation, spacing, and syntax. He is widely considered one of the most important poets of the 20th century.

tumblr_mbvtyvLvcm1qzrkvzo1_1280Cummings was born Edward Estlin Cummings in Cambridge, Massachusetts to Edward Cummings and Rebecca Haswell Clarke. Cummings wrote poetry from an early age, and continued to explore his love of poetry at Harvard University. During his studies, he became influenced by Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. After he graduated, he worked for a book dealer.

At the onset of World War I, he signed up to work in the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps. He spent six weeks in Paris and fell in love with the city. During his work in the ambulance corps, he became suspected of espionage because of some of the anti-war sentiments expressed in the letters he sent home. (Image source)

He was detained for three and a half months at Dépôt de Triage, in La Ferté-Macé, Orne, Normandy. His experience there became the basis for his novel The Enormous Room (1922).

After the war, he spent two more years in Paris before returning to the United States. He released the poetry collections Tulips and Chimneys (1923) and XLI Poems (1925). He continued to return to Paris even after he came back to the U.S., where he split most of his time between rural Connecticut and Greenwich Village.

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His work was notable for its experimental use of spacing, punctuation, and overall grammar. He also published a great deal of erotic poetry, as well as work that touched on race and stereotyping, which caused controversy.

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From 1924-1927, Cummings worked as an essayist and portrait artist for Vanity Fair magazine, during which time he also traveled throughout Northern Africa and Mexico. During the late 1920s, Cummings wrote the avant-garde play Him. Not long after, he traveled the Soviet Union, and recounted his experiences and impressions of socialism in his prose work Eimi (1933).

In 1926, his father died in a car accident. His mother was present and injured, but not killed. His father's death greatly impacted his work.

Cummings didn't earn the notoriety he enjoys today until the 1940s andE._E._Cummings_NYWTSsource

1950s, when his experimental style of writing came more into fashion. In the early 1950s, he received a fellowship from the Academy of American Poets. A few years later, he won the Bollingen Prize for Poetry from Yale University.

Despite being closely associated with the artists in Greenwich Village, Cummings became more and more conservative with age. One example of this is his support for Joseph McCarthy.

By the time he died in 1962, he was the second most widely read poet in the United States after Robert Frost.

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Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Tuesday, 14 October 2014
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