E.E. Cummings is one of the leaders in the world of poetry and one of the most innovative people in the field, particularly in the twentieth century. His artistic talent was in his ability to play with the well-known poetic vocabulary and form and create a distinctive personal style. One of the elements of a traditional Cummings poem will be the use of precision and spare execution, using very few keywords unconventionally put on a single page. He was also the inventor of some of the vocabulary he used, which are intended to demonstrate his expertise and admirable degree of literacy. Cummings managed this literature marvel by combining two known words and making them into a new synthesis. Despite his many great works E.E. Cummings has come under heavy criticism in the past for his rebellious and very unprecedented style of poetry writing. Most of his critiques referred to his work as a misleading and lack proper genre to identify it within the field of literature. As he was an explosive writer, relying on his instinct to create his work, his works are sometimes not understood but remain very much interesting pieces to read and enjoy (Friedman, p.24). Due to his rebellious nature, there has been much discussion on the technique and writing style applied by E.E. Cummings. This paper will be supporting his originality in writing and his rebellious literal style by examining his works to show his level of literature standard and how good he was as an artist and inventor.
After his death, E.E. Cumming was considered to be one of America’s greatest modernist writers. The reason for his embellished career was his unique poetic writing abilities where he wrote poems that were unlike others in the way they were structured. His form is dominated by small and sometimes scurrilous sonnets that used more lower-case letters while lacking punctuation. In one of his poems he begins with a sentence that is phrased in this format “may i feel said he/(i’ll squeal said she,” which shows his style of rebellious nature in his writing (Friedman, p. 26). The form of writing has been criticized for being that of nursery rhymes or even nonsense verses rather than serious pieces of literature. It is through this style that he has gained much fame as it had not been used before. He has been regarded on numerous occasions as a “kid’s poet” who was not supposed to be taken seriously when it came to writing. Any reader who is particularly interested in poetry can recognize the distinctive shape that poems by Cummings when on a page. The words are usually running together or in some cases suddenly break apart. He also uses a blizzard of punctuations that cause the poem to look like words are in liquid form flowing from one sentence line to the next. This shows how incredibly vibrant his works were. These works were such a rarity at the time. Cummings’ knowledge of how to use a typewriter went beyond average spectrums as he was able to control the precise shape and spacing in every line, thus making the poem’s visual appearance crucial to its musical rhythms. Some sonnets look like a thin stream of letters, which can be decoded by a reader who has come to learn about Cumming’s tricks in writing. His playful tinkering of language is one of the most appealing and visible signs of his originality.
Cummings was also referred as a rebellious character with a complex mind, and that is why he was able to create such original pieces of literature. In his poem “Firstness,” there was evidence of this attacking style. It is in this poem that his moral and cosmic principle in writing was first truly recognized (Hoffman, p.112). In this verse, he shows his nature of an independent, original, and self-reliant writer. His format was attributed to his musical upbringing and was not a man who supported the conventional standards and received ideas of other poets. In his poems, we see how his work was truly his own and did not copy or use repeated messages. He was apparently trying to prove to his critics his ability to remain original and genuine to his style of poetry standards. The poem he wrote stood out because it represented a distinct and strict pattern of individuality as a principle of his work. Cummings career helped define the mythic itinerary in the world poetry. He remained unaltered by the wartime experiences and was a man appreciative of escaping the regimentation of the army life, and committed himself to painting, sexual adventure, and writing. It was through this rebellious attitude against the sexual and social conventions that brought him the acclaimed fame by being in sync with the state mood. He had rejected the aspect of sexual Puritanism and insisted on the value of freedom of an individual to explore, create and think. It resonated perfectly in accordance to the increasingly liberal American culture (Hoffman, p.112).
There are those that believe that Cummings and his style of work were ahead of his time, as he kept attacking the old values that had been set by the old poets. By the end of Cummings’ life, he had achieved a legacy as one of the most recognized poets of the time, where most of his works were being read across the country. As an American Modernist poet, his popularity much like that of his contemporary counterpart Edna St. Vincent Millay, was credited to his ability to embody the Bohemian mystique about the village of Greenwich and also on the Left Bank, where sexual and literary experimentation seemed to be parallel to each other. Even though Cummings’s works are non-traditional, it is evident that they have become popular with many readers around the world. The poet made avant-garde and experimental poems that were so attractive to any individual or general reader. Most impressive were the devices that were used by Cumming, which were irregular spacing and complicated matter, which allowed for retardation and amplification of his works. The spacing of keywords in his sentences allowed for puns that would be impossible. Other devices such as using lowercase letters at the beginning of the lines allowed for a kind of distortion, which often re-enforced the syntax. He had mastered the use of all of these devices to jar the reader and forcing them to examine individual experiences described in the poems with fresh eyes.
There has been no modern poet ever to accomplish such childlike perceptions like E.E. Cummings did in his poetry in the use of devices. He had established a way of coming close to things that had natural wonder and delight. This could only be achieved by a high level of astonishingly clear vision. Cummings’ creations are best understood in different ways after stripping the layer of familiarity in the form of language, and also removing the layer of familiarity from the overall world. By transforming the words in his poems, Cummings seemed to have felt a connection to the world. His preferred themes were sourced from real life world concepts based on childhood, flowers, and even love. What he did with these subjects can be termed as exceptional and ingenuity.
The satirical scope of Cummings’ poems brought both criticism and praise from the public and fellow poets. His famous attacks on the minds of the masses, the conventional thought patterns, and the societal restrictions on freedom of expression were attributed to his strong obligation to the individual. Cummings primary concern was to bring out the condemnation of mankind while romanticizing the value of the individual. For this very reason, he continually satirized the herd mentality of what he termed as “most people” in the modern society. He wanted his work to reflect his primary ideologies and principles so as to ensure that he could resist the small minds during that time. He was relentless at ensuring that the people were not satisfied with on what they knew, but was adamant on drawing a response from his readers on being susceptible to limitations. He was opposed to letting his readers be satisfied with the minimal knowledge they had, and hence the key to the different rhetorical functions attributed to his great language. Therefore, it can be concluded that E.E. Cummings was interesting and original writer whose heart was set on discovery and creativity in his writing.
Friedman, Norman, E. E. Cummings: The Growth of a Writer, Southern Illinois University Press,
Hoffman, Frederick J., The Twenties: American Writing in the Postwar Decade, revised edition,
Collier, p.112-113, 1962.