November 30, 2009
E. E. Cummings: Marches to the Beat of His own Drum
As an author during the Modernism literary movement, E. E. Cummings believed that modern mass society was a threat to individuals; his writings experimented with punctuation and typography, and his poems expressed his rebellious attitude towards religion, politics, and conformity. E. E. Cummings’ works asked the reader to think outside the norm and to let the reader’s mind explore new and creative opportunities. His great works, paintings, plays, and poems, are in part responsible for opening the creative doors for the youth of the 20th century. E. E. Cummings was born on October 14, 1894, and was the first born of his parents, Rebecca Clarke and Edward Cummings (Reef 2). He grew up on Irving Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with liberal, indulgent parents who encouraged him to develop his creative gifts (Everett 1). Cummings’ father, Edward Cummings, was a professor of sociology and political science at Harvard University and was his source of awe. His father left Harvard in 1900 to become an ordained minister (Eich 1). His mother, Rebecca, devoted herself to taking care of her children and was their first teacher (Reef 3). When he was three years old, Cummings recited his first original poem (Reef 5). His mother kept a notebook of the rhymes that he invented (Reef 3). In 1904, at the age of nine, Cummings enrolled in the Agassiz Public School. He was very small for his age, but his reading was very advanced (Reef 9). Cummings attended the Latin School in 1907 that prepared children for college. During his high school years, Cummings frequently published his poems in The Cambridge Review (Reef 10). He graduated from high school in the spring of 1911 and entered Harvard University in the fall of 1911 (Reef 13). At Harvard, Cummings began to publish poems in the University’s two literary magazines, The Harvard Monthly and The Harvard Advocate (Reef 17). He wrote a commentary, “The New Art”, which was read by him during graduation from Harvard University on June 2, 1950 (Reef 22). He graduated with honors with a degree in literature focusing on Greek and English. He spent a fifth year was spent at Harvard to earn his Master’s degree in English (Reef 23). In early 1917, Cummings was hired by P.F. Collier to ship books (Reef 25). After only eight weeks on the job, he quit (Reef 27). After the job at Collier, he volunteered to serve in the Norton-Harjes Ambulance group in France. He and his friend were imprisoned on false grounds in a French detention camp for three months for a minor military offense (Everett 1). Due to the persuasion of Cummings’ father, the two were finally freed from prison (Eich 3). Cummings was married a total of three times. He met his first wife Elaine Orr and married her (Eich 5). Their life together was filled with many problems. Cummings had a daughter, Nancy, born on December 20, 1919 with another woman, Elaine Thayer (Reef 46). Nancy grew up believing that her father was Scofield Thayer (Reef 79). Cummings kept this secret of his fatherhood to Nancy from everyone, including his family (Reef 46). His marriage to Elaine Orr ended in divorce in 1926 (Eich 5). At the end of World War I, Cummings went to Paris to study art (Everett 2). In 1926, he landed an assignment with Vanity Fair, which allowed him to travel and establish his lifelong routine of painting in the afternoons and writing at night (Everett 3). During this time he met, married and divorced his second wife, Anne Barton. Their marriage only lasted five years and ended in 1931 (Eich 5). In 1932, he met the woman he would spend the rest of his life with, Marion Morehouse (Eich 8). From June 1916 to January 1917 came the most creative time of Cummings’ life (Kennedy 115). Cummings was influenced by many people throughout his life. In college Cummings was introduced...