e. e. cummings

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Date: 2007
Publisher: Gale, a Cengage Company
Document Type: Biography
Length: 476 words

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About this Person
Born: October 14, 1894 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Died: September 03, 1962 in North Conway, New Hampshire, United States
Nationality: American
Occupation: Poet
Other Names: Cummings, Edward Estlin
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Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1894, cummings spent his childhood in that city, where his father Edward Cummings was a sociology professor at Harvard and a Unitarian clergyman. From an early age cummings showed a strong interest in poetry and art, which was encouraged by his mother Rebecca. cummings attended Harvard University from 1911 to 1915 and joined the editorial board of the Harvard Monthly, a college literary magazine. While in college he became fascinated by avant-garde art, modernism, and cubism, and he began incorporating elements of these styles into his own poetry and paintings. He received a bachelor's degree in 1915 and a master's the following year. His first published poems appeared in the anthology Eight Harvard Poets in 1917. These eight pieces feature the experimental verse forms and the lower-case personal pronoun "i" that were to become his trademark. The copyeditor of the book, however, mistook cummings's intentions as typographical errors and made "corrections." During World War I cummings volunteered for the French-based Norton-Harjes Ambulance Service. As a result of his disregard of regulations and his attempts to outwit the wartime censors in his letters home, cummings spent four months in an internment camp in Normandy on suspicion of treason. Although he found his detention amusing and even enjoyable, his father made use of his contacts in government to secure his son's release. cummings returned to New York and pursued painting but was drafted in 1918. He spent about a year at Camp Danvers, Massachusetts, during which time he wrote prolifically. Beginning around this time, cummings, with the knowledge and approval of his friend Schofield Thayer, had an affair with Schofield's wife Elaine. cummings's daughter Nancy was born in 1919, but she was given Thayer's name. cummings and Elaine Thayer married in 1924, at which time cummings legally adopted Nancy. During the 1920s and 1930s he traveled widely in Europe, alternately living in Paris and New York, and developing parallel careers as a poet and a painter. He published his first poetry collection, Tulips and Chimneys, in 1923. Politically liberal with leftist leanings, cummings visited the Soviet Union in 1931 to learn about that government's system of art subsidies. He was very disillusioned, however, by the regimentation and lack of personal and artistic freedom he encountered there. As a result, he abandoned his liberal views and became deeply conservative on social and political issues. cummings continued to write steadily throughout the 1940s and 1950s, reaching his greatest popularity during this period and winning a number of honors, including the Shelley Memorial Award for poetry in 1944, the Charles Eliot Norton Professorship at Harvard for the academic year 1952–53, and the Bollingen Prize for Poetry in 1958. Despite such successes, however, he never achieved a steady income. cummings continued to give poetry readings to college audiences across the United States until his death in 1962.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|LTF0000015775BI