E. E. Cummings
If a poet is anybody he is somebody to whom things made matter very little---
somebody who is obsessed by Making.”
Cummings, introduction to Is 5 (1926).
E. E. Cummings reputation always precedes him. He was a gadabout, a busybody, a fly by night, an operator, an early and more sentimental Charles Bukowski, a lover and a madman too. Sometimes he was said to be a pornographer. However, Cummings books from the Twenties display the thought and feelings of a serious writer and a serious man. He was later to be photographed with pink plush toy elephants, but in the Twenties, he worked hard. Everything he wrote was experimental, different, new, visual. He combined words, cut them in half, was cavalierly and faithfully innovative with line breaks and disrupted every line and thought if he could. He was also often funny. Cummings was first recognized for the candor and clarity of his “war memoir” The Enormous Room, published by Boni & Liveright in 1922 and reprinted with corrections in 1927 (after Cummings had become more famous). It is a book of disillusion and disenchantment, a book of the individual against the state, an anti-war book. In 1933 after a trip to the Soviet Union, which similarly disillusioned him as it had many before and after, Cummings produced an equally cogent account, Eimi (Covici Friede, 1933). During the Twenties Cummings published three books of poetry, Tulips and Chimneys (T. Selzer, 1922), XLI Poems (Dial Press, 1925) and Is 5 (Boni & Liveright, 1926). During the first two years of the Thirties, he produced three more, By E. E. Cummings (Covici-Friede, 1930), CIOPW (Covici-Friede0 and VV: Viva (Liveright) both published in 1931. It is largely upon this amazing outpouring that his reputation should rest.