|:: Edward Estlin Cummings Biography ::
Edward Estlin Cummings (October 14, 1894 – September 3, 1962), popularly known as E. E. Cummings, with the abbreviated form of his name often written by others in all lowercase letters as e. e. cummings, was an American poet, painter, essayist, author, and playwright. His body of work encompasses approximately 2,900 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays and several essays, as well as numerous drawings and paintings. He is remembered as a preeminent voice of 20th century poetry, as well as one of the most popular.
Edward Estlin Cummings was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, October 14, 1894. His father and most constant source of awe, Edward Cummings, was a professor of Sociology and Political Science at Harvard University. In 1900, Edward left Harvard to become the ordained minister of the South Congregational Church, in Boston. As a child, Cummings attended Cambridge public schools and lived during the summer with his family in their summer home in Silver Lake, New Hampshire. (Kennedy 8-9) Cummings loved his childhood in Cambridge so much that he was inspired to write disputably his most famous poem, "In Just-" (Lane pp. 26-27) He began writing poems as early as 1904 and studied Latin and Greek at the Cambridge Latin High School. He received his B.A. in 1915 and his M.A. in 1916, both from Harvard. His studies there introduced him to avant garde writers, such as Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound.
In 1917, Cummings' first published poems appeared in the anthology Eight Harvard Poets. The same year, Cummings left the United States for France as a volunteer ambulance driver in World War I. Five months after his assignment, however, he and a friend were interned in a prison camp by the French authorities on suspicion of espionage (an experience recounted in his novel, The Enormous Room) for his outspoken anti-war convictions.
After the war, he settled into a life divided between houses in rural Connecticut and Greenwich Village, with frequent visits to Paris. He also traveled throughout Europe, meeting poets and artists, including Pablo Picasso, whose work he particularly admired.
In his work, Cummings experimented radically with form, punctuation, spelling and syntax, abandoning traditional techniques and structures to create a new, highly idiosyncratic means of poetic expression. Later in his career, he was often criticized for settling into his signature style and not pressing his work towards further evolution. Nevertheless, he attained great popularity, especially among young readers, for the simplicity of his language, his playful mode and his attention to subjects such as war and sex.
During his lifetime, Cummings received a number of honors, including an Academy of American Poets Fellowship, two Guggenheim Fellowships, the Charles Eliot Norton Professorship at Harvard, the Bollingen Prize in Poetry in 1958, and a Ford Foundation grant.
At the time of his death, September 3, 1962, at the age of 67, at the age of 67 in North Conway, New Hampshire of a stroke. He was the second most widely read poet in the United States, after Robert Frost. He is buried in Lot 748 Althaea Path, in Section 6, Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston, Massachusetts.
During his lifetime, Cummings received numerous awards in recognition of his work, including:
- Dial Award (1925)
- Guggenheim Fellowship (1933)
- Shelley Memorial Award for Poetry (1944)
- Harriet Monroe Prize from Poetry magazine (1950)
- Fellowship of American Academy of Poets (1950)
- Guggenheim Fellowship (1951)
- Charles Eliot Norton Professorship at Harvard (1952–1953)
- Special citation from the National Book Award Committee for his Poems, 1923-1954 (1957)
- Bollingen Prize in Poetry (1958)
- Boston Arts Festival Award (1957)
- Two-year Ford Foundation grant of $15,000 (1959)