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Page history last edited by Meaghan Kelly 11 years, 4 months ago

The Issue of Capitalization

(or lack thereof)

     As an innovator in the use of punctuation, grammar, and decapitalization, Cummings would frequently use the decapitalization of the proper noun "I" and instead use "i". By doing this in his poetry, he decreased the importance of himself, as the author, making the statement, and therefore increased the importance of the statement itself. Rather, the meaning of the point was more important than the fact that he was the person who indeed believed it. Because he did this so frequently in his poetry, publishers and editors became confused as to how Cummings would want his own name capitalized or decapitalized. Many times you will see his name as "e.e. cummings", and other times it will be "E.E. Cummings". Rumors circulated that he had officially changed his name to the decapitalized form of the name, but those rumors were quickly dispelled by Cummings' widow. In one of the published collections of poems, put together and prefaced by Harry T. Moore, Moore discusses his  capitalization mannerisms to the reader: 


     " If I don't use capitals for e. e. Cummings, it isn't just a stunt. He had his name put legally into lower case, and in his later books the titles and his name were always in lower case. And I have a weaknessfor Edmund Wilson's rendition of Cummings, in his FINNEGANS WAKE parody, as hee hee cunnings. So be it—all this goes with the iconoclasm of the twenties, with its unpunctuated, uncapitalized Poetry. The lower case is a kind of continuing talisman of cummings, though it doesn't embed him in the twenties."


     When Marion, Cummings' widow, read this, she shot back to one of the publishers of the book in a letter: "you should not have allowed H. Moore to make such a stupid & childish statement about Cummings & his signature." (source)


The man Marion had written to, Norman Friedman, had been a part of the conflict between the capitalization and decapitalization of the poet's name, but the following statement by Friedman to a fellow editor/publisher sums up his opinion quite succinctly:

      " My previous book has the capitalized form in the text & the lower case form on jacket, spine, & title page. I lean slightly, however, toward the capitalized form even for the latter places, for I think that Cummings could do what he wanted to do about capitals, but that we should follow standard forms, since we are not poets in this. Lower case forms when used by the writer for his own name may imply humility, but when used by others for his name may imply condescension."




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