Good general introductions to Cummings' life and work:
Kidder's book has been helpful in preparing the Notes
on the Writings of EEC.
- Norman Friedman's E. E. Cummings: The Art of His Poetry (Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins UP, 1960),
- Rushworth M. Kidder's E. E. Cummings: An Introduction to the Poetry
(New York: Columbia UP, 1979),
- Richard S. Kennedy's E. E. Cummings Revisited (New York: Twayne,
- Robert E. Wegner's The Poetry and Prose of E. E. Cummings (New
York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1965.
Collections of critical essays on Cummings:
- Baum, S. V., ed. ESTI:eec: E. E. Cummings
and the Critics. East Lansing: Michigan State UP, 1962.
- Dendinger, Lloyd N., ed. E.E. Cummings: The Critical Reception.
Burt Franklin: New York, 1981.
- Friedman, Norman, ed. E. E. Cummings: A Collection of Critical
Essays. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1972.
- Rotella, Guy, ed. Critical Essays on E. E. Cummings. Boston:
G.K. Hall, 1984.
Biographies: Readers’ enjoyment and comprehension of the poetry
will be greatly increased by a good working knowledge of Cummings' life. To
an unusual degree, Cummings attempted to inhabit the self that he depicted
in his poems. The best biographical source is Richard S. Kennedy's Dreams
in the Mirror: A Biography of E. E. Cummings (New York: Liveright, 1980).
Charles Norman's biography The Magic Maker (1958; reissued, 1972)
is also useful at times. Cummings himself wrote three books with autobiographical
elements. The Enormous Room and Eimi are both memoirs, while i: six nonlectures could be described as a poetic
Additional works: As readers of poetry know, the joy of interpreting
a poem has only begun once one has successfully decoded its recondite references
and allusions. However, in addition to paying attention to the usual poetic
devices of figurative language, rhyme, and meter, readers of Cummings must
also be alert to three special techniques:
- Cummings' unusual and characteristic deformations of syntax and grammar.
Readers wishing to know more about this subject should consult Irene Fairley's
E. E. Cummings and Ungrammar (New York: Watermill, 1975) and anything
written by Richard D. Cureton listed in "Works
- Cummings' special visual placement of the "poem-picture" on the page.
Various iconic devices and word-splittings can turn seemingly simple poetic
objects into extremely complex and challenging adventures in reading. Consult
chapter 4 of Norman Friedman's E. E. Cummings: The Art of His Poetry
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1960), Richard D. Cureton's "Visual Form in
E. E. Cummings' No Thanks," and chapters 5 and 6 of Michael Webster's
Reading Visual Poetry after Futurism (New York: Peter Lang, 1995).
See also Milton Cohen's PoetandPainter: The Aesthetics of E. E. Cummings's
Early Work (Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1987) and Webster's articles "E.
E. Cummings and the Reader: Technique as Critique," and "'singing is silence':
Being and Nothing in the Visual Poetry of E. E. Cummings."
- Cummings' "particular conceptual vocabulary" (Friedman, Art
166). Cummings uses words such as "now," "dream," "moon," (and many others)
in a highly idiosyncratic fashion. The best elucidation of this conceptual
vocabulary remains Norman Friedman's E. E. Cummings: The Art of His Poetry.
Martin Heusser's I Am My Writing: The Poetry of E. E. Cummings (Tübingen:
Stauffenburg Verlag, 1997) both complements and contrasts with Friedman's
Cummings Bibliography page
Notes for Cummings page