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A Lifelong Experiment: What Made E. E. Cummings Creative Essay

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Updated: Jun 4th, 2019

A Letter Proposing the Topic

One of the most mysterious and by far the most original writers of the century, E. E. Cummings has become a symbol of creativity in writing.

With the incredible length that he would go to to express the slightest change in his characters’ emotions, E. E. Cummings can be considered a once living proof of the fact that in literature, every single letter or even comma, for that matters, plays its important role and that, once out of the traditional order, these elements can help convey the slightest changes in the characters’ fleeting emotions, as well as the author’s witty commentaries and observations in the most subtle way. Although a number of Cummings’ works have been analyzed to death, the roots of his creativity have not been researched well enough.

Even with his ability notice extraordinary elements in the most mundane aspects of life, Cummings needed a specific source to get his inspiration from. Analyzing his life, the specifics of major works and the factors that enhanced Cummings’ writing process, the given essay is going to research what stood behind Cummings’ creativity, whether this was the influence of other people or the effect of the environment, which Cummings lived in.

It is worth mentioning that the given issue has not been researched well; there are only a few works devoted to the sources of Cummings’ inspiration, one of them belonging to Catherine Reef, and other having been written by. Hence, the issue is relatively new and worth studying.

Although the topicality of the problem might seem rather little, it is necessary to keep in mind that Cummings’ key goal was to search for new ways of artistic expression in literature, which will always remain on the literature agenda. That being said, the driving force behind Cummings’ works is well worth studying.


Researching the life of a writer is not easy; since most of what a person writes comes from his interpretation of specific events in his/her life rather from the description of these events, it is very easy to get carried out by discussing the implications of the given person’s biography details.

In addition, with such people as E.E. Cummings, one of the world’s most famous abstractionist writers, it is hardly possible to tell the reality and the fantastic world that these people lived in apart. That being said, it is still necessary to add that there are a number of detailed biographies of E.E. Cummings’ life.

To start with, Catherine Reef must be best known for helping shed some light on E.E. Cummings’ life path. Bay-cheng and Cole, on the other hand, seem to be more into dealing with the specifics of Cummings’ poetry and novels. The omnipresent Harold Bloom also managed to capture the key events of Cummings’ life in a bottle.

It is quite impressive that, in contrast to the rest of the authors mentioned above, Bloom actually manages to tie in the specifics of Cummings’ biography and the unique writing style that Cummings developed as a result of his several encounters with specimens of the Abstractionist art.

Pyramid Diagram: Creative Approaches Adopted by E. E. Cummings in Poetry and Novel Writing

E. E. Cummings and His Sources of Inspiration: The World Viewed Upside Down

Cummings’ works could never be fully understood; each of them seems a puzzle, which, once turned around, will necessarily take another shape and will become even more mysterious. However, Cummings never intended his poems, novels and other writing to be straightforward – instead, he created a work that anyone could approach from his/her own perspective and, therefore, read his/her own vision of the world into it.

It would be a drastic mistake to consider Cummings’ works empty by default – each of them has a long history and is targeted at a specific problem; the many ways in which these works can be read, however, make one think of the unbelievable creativity that only Cummings could deliver.

At the first glance, it might seem not that hard to pin down what exactly makes Cummings and his works so outstanding. The originality of forms together with the daring experiments with the English language clearly makes his novels and especially poems unique. However, when one gets down to it, these are not the deliberate violations of the rules of grammar and poetry, but the exact points at which Cummings decides to make a deliberate “mistake” that make his works stand out.

It is quite remarkable that Cummings works never follow the same patter in terms of their implicated “protest”; they might have a few letters mixed up, like “Picasso”: “Picasso/you give us things/which/bulge:grunting lungs pumped full of sharp thick mind” (Cummings “Picasso”), or, on the contrary, break every possible grammatical rule, like “One!”: “(one!)/the twisti-twisti barber/-pole is climbing” (Cummings “One!”).

Sometimes there is no rule breaking at all – Cummings simply decides to leave the readers on their own with his stream of consciousness, as in “If”: “Things would seem fair,–/Yet they’d all despair,/For if here was there/We wouldn’t be we” (Cummings “If”). There is no pattern in the author’s misplacing a comma or replacing a capital letter with a lowercase one, which points at the fact that these alterations to the English language

When considering the specifics of Cummins’ works, especially in the poetry department, one cannot help noticing the intense desire to make the poem look completely out of chord with its every single typical attribute, such as rhyme, sentence structure, etc., straight down to breaking the basic punctuation rules.

According to what Patea and Derrick say, “Cummings’ transformative grammar not only conveys the dialects of substance and generation, but dramatically performs it” (Patea and Derrick 117). Therefore, there can be no doubt that Cummings’ poetry owes part of its charm to the rebellious air that breaking all grammar rules known to an English-speaking person can get one.

Another possible way to view Cummings’ creativity is to analyze the contrast between the absurdity of the exterior of Cummings’ works and the implications that they incorporate; once viewing the striking difference between the two, one will have to agree that the author uses his contrast on purpose to convey not only the social messages underlying the ext, but also to express his personal judgment of the situation that is being discussed in the artwork.

Finally, it is important to consider the environment in which Cummings developed as an artist and as a creator. After being surrounded by the specimens of the European and American best avant-garde works and devoting a huge chunk of his life to discussing these artworks, analyzing them and trying to sink into the atmosphere of the avant-garde world, Cummings could not help but incorporate the acquired information into his works.

Being fascinated with the genre, he must have felt the urge to use it as the key expressive means in his own works: “Cummings’s interest in the European avant-garde began well before his first dramatic experiments” (Bay-cheng and Cole 157).

Another peculiar issue to consider is the source of Cummings creativity. Given the originality of Cummings’ works, which often borders weirdness, it would be quite a stretch to assume that Cummings’ original ideas came from the mundane surrounding of the urban life. Therefore, there must have been a source, which Cummings used for his inspiration and for creating new forms of poetry, writing and painting. Among the possible answers, three hypotheses can be considered.

The first and the most obvious suggestion can concern Cummings’ personal life and experience.

It would be wrong, however, to tie the sources of E. E. Cummings’ inspiration to mere fascination with the specifics of the English grammar. Although the latter, with its strict rules to be followed, does make a powerful tool once its rules are bent a touch, there still seems to be more than meets the eye in Cummings’ creativity.

Therefore, the heritage that Cummings left can be read in million ways, and each of these interpretations will be completely valid. The initial idea, which Cummings actually meant to deliver, however, needs a careful and thoughtful research, since it can be concealed beneath several decades of the author’s personal life experience and observations, or an accident that occurred in Cummings’ life.

That being said, it can be considered that Cummings’ ways of expressing emotions and ideas, as well as the fleeting mood of the characters and the story are much more diverse than the researchers give them credit for. Being able to reprint the tiniest changes in the society, as well as incorporate his own memories and experience into the story canvas, Cummings deserves being mentioned among the most ingenious abstractionists of the century.

Works Cited

Bay-cheng, Sarah and Barbara Cole. Poets at Play: An anthology of Modernist Drama. Cranbury, NJ: Susquehanna University Press, 2010. Print.

Bloom, Harold. E. E. Cummings. Broomall, PA: Chelsea House Publishings, 2003. Print.

Cummings, Edward Estlin. If. n. d. Web. <>.

Cummings, Edward Estlin. One! n. d. Web. <>.

Cummings, Edward Estlin. Picasso. n. d. Web. <>.

Patea, Viorica and Paul S. Derrick. Modernism Revisited: Transgressing Boundaries and Strategies of Renewal in American Poetry. New York, NY: Rodopi. 2007. Print.

Reef, Catherine. E.E. Cummings. New York, NY: Clarion Books. 2006. Print.

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