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> Spotlight on New Hampshire Authors

cover image of Complete Poems

e. e. cummings




Edward Estlin Cummings (e.e. cummings) was among the most innovative and influential poets of the twentieth century. Cummings revised grammatical and linguistic rules to suit his own purposes and experimented with poetic form and language to create a distinct personal style. He ignored conventional punctuation and syntax in favor of a dynamic use of language, even inventing his own words by combining common words to create new meanings. Yet despite the nontraditional form of his poems, cummings gained widespread popularity. “No one else has ever made avant-garde, experimental poems so attractive to the general reader,” wrote critic Randall Jarrell.

His style may have been avant-garde, but his themes were more traditional: love, childhood, nature. In Modern American Poetry: Essays in Criticism, John Logan called Cummings “one of the greatest lyric poets in our language.” Perhaps Cummings’ most important theme was the triumph of the individual over conformity and complacency. In his “nonlectures” at Harvard University in 1952, Cummings said, “So far as I am concerned, poetry and every other art was, is, and forever will be strictly and distinctly a question of individuality.”

Cummings spent his summers at Joy Farm in Madison, New Hampshire. His family bought the farm near Silver Lake from a farmer named Ephraim Joy in 1899. In 1910 Cummings’ father built a summer home on the shore of Silver Lake and began leasing Joy Farm, but in 1929 Cummings’ mother deeded the farm to him, and he returned there every summer for the rest of his life. From his earliest years, Cummings had a deep love of nature, and the farm held a special place in his heart. As he once wrote to his mother, “I wouldn’t give an inch of New Hampshire for all the rest of New England.”

He was at Joy Farm on September 2, 1962, when he suffered a stroke. He died early the next morning at Memorial Hospital in North Conway, New Hampshire. He remains one of the most recognized and widely read American poets of the twentieth century. Joy Farm is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Selected Resources

  • Full text of many of cummings' poems from poem hunter This is a rich resource but it generates multiple pop-ups
  • Spring, the Journal of the e e cummings society

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E. E. Cummings’ first volume of poetry, Tulips and Chimneys, was published in 1923. The original manuscript was trimmed by the publisher, cover image of Tulips & Chimneysand the title was changed from Cummings’ preferred title, Tulips & Chimneys

The volume shown here is a reprint of Cummings' original manuscript, with the original title.

cover image of The Enourmous Room

Although best known for his poetry, E. E. Cummings’ first book was a novel. 

In 1917, Cummings went to France in the early days of World War I to volunteer for the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Service. Through a series of misadventures, he found himself imprisoned by the French under suspicion of treason, until the U.S. entered the war and he was released. The Enormous Room tells the story of Cummings’ time in captivity.

cover image of Dreams in the MirrorE.E. Cummings was an accomplished painter and illustrator as well as poet.  The image shown on the cover of Dreams in the Mirror is a self-portrait by Cummings.

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