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Literary Style, Works and Timeline

Page history last edited by Meaghan Kelly 13 years, 10 months ago

Literary Style


     Cummings regarded punctuation as an art form in and of itself, and held an importance just as the words of his poems did. He uses it to make statements, intesify, soften, or jumble the words. His uses of punctuation can add a different tone to the work, such as confusion, displacement, smoothness, or sharpness. His use of punctuation was extremely innovative, as no other before him had used it in such a radical and integral manner.


Christopher Sawyer-Laucanno, Cummings' biographer, encapsulates the poet's odd use of punctuation and seemingly grammatically incorrect techniques:

     "What is identifiably Cummings style is all here: the uncapitalized 'i'; the use of parentheses and the ampersand; the spacing for visual and aural purposes; the punctuation for effect; the running of words together to create a wholeness out of separateness; the unique imagery ('hair-thin tints,' 'women coloured twilight'); the syntactical interruptions; and the creation of an adverb -- 'sayingly' out of another part of speech. And yet these are not just tricks for the sake of a unique semantic; the saying is integral to the meaning."

     What Sawyer-Laucanno meant was that Cummings was not using these odd and quirky punctuation styles to be merely different from the rest, they served a real purpose to his poetry and without his personal grammatical style, the work would have severely lacked meaning. As a poet, Cummings would not capitilize the word "i", in order to draw attention away from himself as a person and towards himself as a poet, and put the focus on his subject and the emotion he was attempting to convey. This caused confusion and discrepancies in relation to the capitilization of his actual name, which is tended to in the Decapitilization section. Cummings also was known for the aesthetic movement of his poems; By using spacing and punctuation, Cummings made his literary works into visual pieces of art:






Cummings was not limited to his seemingly vast world of poetry. Although it is what he is best known and recognized for, Cummings also was involved in prose, theatre, and visual art. His collection of lectures from Harvard six nonlectures and his novel The Enormous Room are some of his prose works that are more widely known, and his theatre works of HIM, AnthroposTom: A Ballet, and Santa Claus: A Morality. Cummings also dabbled in painting and sketching a variety of subjects such as architecture, nudes, still life, portraits, and interiors.


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His complete poetic works are composed into a number of collections :

  • Tulips & Chimneys (1922)
  • & [AND] (1925)
  • is 5 (1925)
  • W[ViVa] (1931)
  • No Thanks (1935)
  • New Poems (1938)
  • 50 Poems (1940)
  • 1 x 1 (1944)
  • XAIPE (1950)
  • 95 Poems (1958)
  • 73 Poems (1963)
  • Uncollected Poems (1910-1962)
  • Etcetera: The Unpublished Poems (1983).




Career Timeline


1907-1911    Prepares for college at Cambridge Latin School.

1911-1915    Harvard College. Receives A.B., "magna cum laude in Literature, especially in Greek and English." Delivers "a commencement  

                       part," essay on "The New Art" (Miscellany 5-11).

1916    Receives A.M., Harvard. Begins painting in the Cubist style.

1917     Moves to New York City. Volunteers for Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps on April 7. Sails to France on April 28. After five weeks in Paris, is sent to the western front on June 13. Arrested by French security police on September 23, on suspicion of espionage. Sent to Dépôt de Triage, La Ferté-Macé. Released for return to U.S. on December 19. First book publication of poems in Eight Harvard Poets.

1918    Six months’ duty in the 73rd Infantry Division, Camp Devens, Massachusetts.

1919    Love affair with Elaine Thayer, wife of Scofield Thayer. Daughter, Nancy, born December 20.


1920    Publishes poems in the first issue of the revived



1921-1923    Lives most of these years in Paris.

1922    The Enormous Room, an account of his 1917 imprisonment at La Ferté-Macé.

1923    Tulips and Chimneys, first book of poems.

1924    March 19, marries Elaine Thayer in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Sometime in late August or early September, James Sibley Watson installs EEC in third-floor "studio" room at 4 Patchin Place. On December 4, divorces Elaine Thayer in Paris.

1925    Publishes XLI Poems and & (And). Receives the Dial Award "for distinguished service to American letters." In July begins liaison with Anne Barton.

1926 Publishes is 5. In March sails to Europe with Anne. On November 2 his father is killed when his car is struck by a train in a blinding snowstorm. Mother is injured, but survives.

1927    Him, a play in three acts, published

1928    Him produced at the Provincetown Playhouse.

1929     May 1, Marries Anne Barton. Honeymoons in Europe, May-July 20


1930     [No Title], a book of nonsense (prose). November -- travels to Europe (307)

1931    Publishes ViVa. Publication of CIOPW, a book of reproductions of his art work. May 10-June 14, trip to Russia. December, first major exhibit of paintings at the Painters and Sculptors Gallery.

1932    Separates from Anne Barton in October. (In mid-year, Anne obtains divorce in Mexico.) Meets Marion Morehouse, who lives with him as his wife until his death.

1933    Eimi, account of his trip to Russia. Awarded Guggenheim Fellowship. (EEC's proposal consists of an offer to produce "a book of poems.") Travels with Marion to Paris and Tunisia.

1934    Divorces Anne Barton in New York on August 31.

1935    No Thanks. In April, gives one of his first public readings at Bennington College. Travels to California and Mexico. Tom, a scenario for a ballet. Death of friend the sculptor Gaston Lachaise

1935-1936     Marion rents small apartment on the ground floor of 4 Patchin Place.

1938    Collected Poems.

1939     Encouraged by Theodore Spencer, gives poetry reading at Harvard. In May hosts Ezra Pound, whom EEC finds "incredibly lonesome" (Dreams 387; Pound / Cummings 139).


1940    50 Poems.

1944    1 x 1. One man show of paintings, American-British Art Center.

1945    One-man show at Rochester (N.Y.) Memorial Art Gallery.

1946    Santa Claus, a play, published first in the special "Cummings number" of The Harvard Wake, and later in book form.

1947    Death of his mother in January.

1948    Reunion with daughter, Nancy.

1949    One man show of paintings, American-British Art Center.


1950    Xaipe. Harriet Monroe Prize by Poetry magazine. Fellowship of the Academy of American Poets. One-man show at Rochester Memorial Art Gallery.

1951    Second Guggenheim Fellowship. Travels to Paris, Venice, Florence, and Athens.

1952-1953    Delivers Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard which are published as i: six nonlectures.

1953     In May records E. E. Cummings Reading His Poetry for Caedmon.

1954    Poems 1923-1954. One-man show at Rochester Memorial Art Gallery.

1955    Begins a seven-year career of poetry readings at colleges and universities.

1956    Travels to Spain and Italy.

1957    Chosen as Boston Arts Festival Poet.

1958    95 Poems. Bollingen Prize for Poetry. First edition of A Miscellany.

1959    Ford Foundation grant (2 years). Travels to Ireland.

1960    Travels to Sicily, Italy, Greece.

1962    Publishes Adventures in Value, photographs by Marion Morehouse with comments by EEC. September 2, suffers a stroke after chopping wood at Joy Farm. Dies on September 3 in Conway, New Hampshire.

1963     73 Poems published. 


(timeline source : http://www.gvsu.edu/english/cummings/Chrono.htm)

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