John T. Ordeman
(in consultation with George J. Firmage)

[Spring 9 (2000): 160-170]

Titles of literary works may serve any or all of several purposes: to identify the work, certainly: perhaps also to arouse the interest of potential readers or to indicate the nature of work, its subject or theme. Some of E. E. Cummings’ titles are purely factual; such as 50 Poems or Santa Claus. Others possess a measure of obscurity, the meaning becoming clear only after the reader has acquired familiarity with the work, The Enormous Room and Tulips and Chimneys, for examples. The most intriguing convey virtually no idea of the nature of the work, Eimi and & and Xaipe being of this sort.

For the benefit of those who may find some of Cummings’ titles bewildering, I have prepared this catalog. It is not a piece of original research but merely a compendium of information available in various sources; the writings, for the most part, of George Firmage, Norman Friedman, Richard Kennedy, and Charles Norman. The catalog lists all of the books that are covered in Firmage's bibliography, which was published in 1960, as well as books which were published after that date which contain previously unpublished Cummings writings.


Cummings’ poems had been printed in publications of Cambridge Latin School and in both The Harvard Monthly and The Harvard Advocate over the years, but Eight Harvard Poets, which contains eight of his poems, was the first book in which his work appeared. The anthology was published in 1917 by Laurence J. Gomme, the expenses being, for the most part, underwritten by the contributors. Cummings was in very good company, for among the other young poets whose work was included in Eight Harvard Poets were S. Foster Damon, John Dos Passos, Robert Hillyer, and Dudley Poore.


Cummings' first book was The Enormous Room, published by Boni & Liveright in 1922, an account of his incarceration in a French detention camp for actions which had put his loyalty to the Allied cause in question while he was serving as an ambulance driver with the French army. The title refers to the 80 by 40 foot room at La Ferté Macé, where Cummings spent three months in the fall of 1918 in the company of his friend Slater Brown and sixty or so men of various nationalities.

When the author had completed work on the book, he sailed for Europe, leaving the as yet untitled manuscript with his father, who had agreed to deal with the publisher. The publisher's suggestion of Hospitality as a title was [end p. 160] rejected by Dr. Cummings as too cynical. His own choice was Lost and Found, reflecting, perhaps his efforts to locate his son and negotiate his release form La Ferté Macé. He sent Cummings a list of possible titles for consideration; the author settled the matter conclusively by cable: "TITLE OF BOOK THE ENORMOUS ROOM."


Tulips and Chimneys, Cummings' first book of poetry, was published in 1923 by Thomas Seltzer. It contained only 66 of the 152 poems in the manuscript that Cummings had submitted with the title Tulips & Chimneys. Cummings did not favour Seltzer’s elimination of more than half of the poems he intended should be included; however, he was apparently eager to have the book published and therefore willing to make concessions. He insisted only that the arrangement should not be changed and that there should be no misprints or "improvements" in the texts of the poems. Cummings had specified that the title should be Tulips & Chimneys; however, Seltzer substituted the word and for the ampersand.

Cummings’ biographer Richard Kennedy wrote that the phrase "tulips and chimneys" is an example of "the disparate pairs of words that he and [Slater] Brown enjoyed putting together: 'lilacs and monkeywrenches,' 'creeds and syringes,' 'hangmen and tea kettles,' and so on" (206). Kennedy characterized the poems in the book's first section, "Tulips," as "lyric renderings . . . in standard or free verse" and those in the second section, "Chimneys," as "responses to the modern world . . . in sordid urban scenes or in linguistically explosive handlings of conventional poetic subjects" (238).

The 152 poems that Cummings had intended to have published as Tulips & Chimneys were eventually issued by Liveright in 1976 in an edition of the complete 1922 manuscript [edited by G. J. Firmage]. The so-called "Archetype Edition" of the same manuscript, published by The Golden Eagle Press in 1937, contains only 150 poems; Sonnets Actualities IV and XX are missing. Of the remainder, 37 poems are not in manuscript order and three, Impressions X, Post Impressions IX and Sonnets Unrealities VII, appear as Songs X, Portraits XXX and Sonnets Actualities XIII respectively.


Although Cummings had agreed to Thomas Seltzer’s abridgement of the manuscript of 152 poems in order to get Tulips and Chimneys published, he still wanted to see the 86 poems Seltzer had deleted in print. Lincoln MacVeagh, of The Dial, selected 41 of these poems, which were published in April, 1925, by The Dial Press with the title XLI Poems. The roman numerals are generally, but not invariably, printed as capital letters. Perhaps the poet intended that the title should be seen as an anagram of "I excel." Then again, perhaps not. [end p. 161]

& [AND]

The 45 remaining poems that had been deleted from the 1922 Tulips & Chimneys manuscript, together with 34 new poems (at least 17 of which were almost certainly part of the first 1919 version of the poet’s first book) were published privately by Cummings in 1925. He titled the collection &, using the ampersand he had wanted in the title of the earlier book; the volume is referred to as And. The book is divided into three sections, which are preceded by large block letters: A, N, and D.

is 5

The title of the collection of 88 poems published by Boni & Liveright in 1926 is printed with the word is over the number 5 on the book's cover and title page; however, in a list of Cummings’ published works on the page facing the title page, the title is given as Is Five.

The significance of the title is explained by the poet in a foreword: "If a poet is anybody,he is somebody to whom things made matter very little—somebody who is obsessed by Making." The foreword concludes: "Ineluctable preoccupation with The Verb gives a poet one priceless advantage:whereas nonmakers must content themselves with the merely undeniable fact that two times two is four,he rejoices in a purely irresistible truth (to be found,in abbreviated costume,upon the title page of the present volume)." The book is divided into five groups of poems, and it begins and ends with sets of five sonnets.


The title of Him, the three-act play that was published by Boni & Liveright in 1927 and produced by the Provincetown Playhouse the following year, is spelled with three capital letters on the spine and on the title page of the book, with a single initial capital letter in the list of Cummings’ works that faces the title page and with three lower case letters on the playbill. All three forms have been used by writers over the years.

Him, identified as "a would-be artist," is the protagonist. He has much in common with the playwright, who wrote of Him in "Nonlecture 5," "On the one hand, a complete fanatic, dedicated to values beyond life and death, he is on the other hand a profoundly alive and supremely human being."


Christmas Tree is the title given to a separate publication of the poem "little tree," which had been included in XLI Poems. The booklet was printed by The American Book Bindery in 1928 for use, apparently, as a Christmas gift. A number, but not all, of the copies carry the statement "Printed for National Chromium Corporation." [end p. 162]


[No Title] is the conventional term used to identify the book of eight surrealistic prose pieces which were published first as "a kind of bagatelle" (Kennedy 316) in an anthology, The New American Caravan, in 1929. The anthology, which was subtitled "A Yearbook of American Literature," contained stories, plays, essays and poems by 29 writers, among whom were Erskine Caldwell, Stanley Kunitz, Robert McAlmon, and Ivor Winters—whose essay on contemporary poetry mentioned Cummings as well as Eliot, Pound, Stevens, Williams, and Crane. Cummings’ contribution was published the following year as a separate book, which he referred to in the first "Nonlecture" as "an untitled volume of satire." In neither printing was the work given a title. The title page of the book reads:

E. E. Cummings
with illustrations
by the author

Opposite the title page is a blank space below which is the caption "frontispiece."

In a preface entitled "An Imaginary Dialogue between ALMOST Any Publisher And A certain Author," the Publisher says, "By all that’s holy,THIS IS NOT A BOOK!" The Author replies, "This is a book,by all that’s not full of holes." At the conclusion of the dialogue, the Author speaks of "infantile delusions"; "Such as the negatively fantastic delusion that something with a title on the outside and a great many printed pages on the inside is a book—and the positively monstrous delusion that a book is what anybody can write and nobody can’t publish and somebody won’t go to jail for and everybody will understand."

The Publisher responds, "Well,if THAT’S not a BOOK,what IS?" to which the Author replies, "A new way of being alive." The dialogue concludes with the Publisher swallowing his chequebook and saying, as he drops dead, "No thanks . . ."


The letters CIOPW, the book’s title, are the initial letters of charcoal, ink, oil, pencil, and watercolor; and the book is a collection of reproductions of Cummings’ drawings and paintings in these media. The 99 works depicted—27 drawings and 72 paintings—are reproduced in black and white.

A number of Cummings’ pictures had been printed in The Dial, but CIOPW, which was published by Covici-Friede in 1931, is the only book published in his lifetime that illustrates his work as an artist. In an untitled [end p. 163] introduction Cummings referred to himself as "an author of pictures,a draughtsman of words." 

VV [ViVa]

ViVa, a collection of 70 poems published by Horace Liveright, Inc. in 1931, has a device of two overlapping V’s as the title. The device stands for viva, the imperative form of the verb live, and the title is always spoken as ViVa.


The Red Front, Cummings’ translation of a poem, Le Front Rouge, by the French surrealist poet Louis Aragon, appeared first in an anthology, Literature of the World Revolution, in 1931. It was reprinted as a separate work by Contempo Publishers in 1933. A Marxist work, it does not reflect Cummings’ views of Communism, which are made clear in Eimi, which was also published in 1931; however, Cummings was apparently willing to translate it as a favor for Aragon, who was a good friend.


Eimi—Greek for "I am"—is Cummings’ title for the book which is an expansion of the journal he kept during a trip to the Soviet Union in the summer of 1931. Eimi was published two years later by Covici, Friede. The title, presumably, is intended to emphasize the necessity of an individual's standing against the forces of collectivism, which he saw everywhere in the USSR and deplored.

In his introduction written for the 1934 Modern Library edition of The Enormous Room, Cummings wrote a dialogue between Author and Public which deals in part with Eimi:

Public:  And you have only just finished your second novel?
Author: So called.
            Entitled ee-eye-em-eye?
            And pronounced?
            "A" as in a, "me" as in me; accent on the "me."
            How does Am compare with The Enormous Room?


Having had no success in finding a publisher for his next collection of 71 poems, Cummings had to resort to having his mother subsidize its publication in 1935 by The Golden Eagle Press. The book has no title page as such; [end p. 164] however, the cover and the dust jacket have the words "No Thanks" printed in the author’s script, and the page that would normally be the title page has the word "TO" followed by the names are printed so as to form the shape of a funeral urn [or perhaps a loving cup —Ed.].

Cummings was obviously bitter. His most recent books, moreover, had not sold well; and at the height of the Great Depression, apparently no publisher thought that a volume of Cummings’ poems would likely prove a profitable venture. Cummings’ mother was apparently glad to put up the necessary funds for a private printing of the book, which has as a postscript: "AND THANKS TO R.H.C." [Rebecca Haswell Cummings].


Cummings was commissioned in 1933 to write the scenario for a ballet, and following his wife’s suggestion, he decided to adapt Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It was intended that Tom should be staged in the fall of 1934 by the American Ballet Company with music by David Diamond and choreography by George Balanchine. Balanchine, unfortunately, was not favorably impressed by Cummings’ scenario, and the project was abandoned. The scenario was, however, published in 1935 by Arrow Editions with a noteworthy portrait of Uncle Tom by Ben Shahn as a frontispiece.


Cummings’ first book of poetry to be published in England was a selection of twenty poems, chosen by the poet from all six of his previously published collections. The title is written as the fraction one twentieth, and the book, published by Roger Roughton in 1936, is generally referred to as One Over Twenty.


The title Collected Poems, which was given to the volume published by Harcourt, Brace in 1938, is in a sense a misnomer, for the book contains only about two-thirds of the Cummings poems that had been included in earlier collections. Collected Poems, a selection made by the poet and the editor, Charles A. Pearce, also contained 22 previously unpublished works, which were placed in the concluding section entitled "New Poems."


Cummings’ next book, 50 Poems, contained the poems he had written since the publication of Collected Poems. A limited edition was published by Duell, Sloan and Pearce in 1940, with an ordinary edition appearing the following year. [end p. 165]

Cummings had used the number of poems in the book as its title with his third book, XLI Poems, and he followed this practice later with 95 Poems. His executors did the same with the posthumously published 73 Poems.

1 X 1

The collection of 54 poems published by Henry Holt and Company in 1944 was titled 1 X 1, which is stated as One Times One when the book is mentioned. The title, according to Norman Friedman, "signifies the unity and wholeness of the transcendental vision" (133). The words of the book's title are the last words of the book's last poem, "if everything happens that can’t be done," the final line being "we’re wonderful one times one." The book bears the postscript "marion’s book," and like many others in 1 X 1, the last poem is a love poem written to his wife.

I believe Cummings is saying that their marriage—and by extension, any very good marriage—is like the arithmetic statement 1 X 1= 1; that is, Marion and Estlin continue to be individuals, but they are united to form another entity, the one of their marriage. The analogy for a friendship might be given as 1 + 1 = 2, but the husband and wife become the one which is the "product" of their being "wonderful one times one."


Cummings contributed a short one-act play entitled "Anthropos: or the Future of Art" to an anthology, Whither, Whither or After Sex, What? A Symposium to End Symposiums, which was edited by Walter S. Hankel and published in 1930. Whither, Whither . . . is an anthology of thirteen humorous satirical essays by well-known writers; among the titles and their authors are; "Libido: or the Future of Debauchery," by Corey Ford; "Gorgonzola: or the Future of Literary Criticism," by Edmund Wilson; "Oedipus: or the Future of Love," by Malcolm Cowley, and "Freud: or the Future of Psychoanalysis," by James Thurber. Cummings’ contribution was published separately in book form by The Golden Eagle Press in 1944.

The play consists of dialogue between Man and three "infrahumans,"—subhumans or inferior beings. Anthropos is, of course, Greek for Man in the sense of mankind or humanity.


Santa Claus, which Cummings subtitles "A Morality," has been likened to a children’s pantomime, a puppet show, and a medieval morality play. It is a one-act piece with Santa Claus, as the protagonist, contending with the antagonist, Death. The play was included in The Cummings Number of The Harvard Wake in the spring of 1946, and it was published in book form by Henry Holt and Company later that year. [end p. 166]


"Puella Mea," the longest poem Cummings ever wrote—290 lines—appeared first in The Dial (January, 1921) and then in Tulips and Chimneys. The title, "my girl" in Latin, refers to Elaine Orr Thayer, the mother of Cummings’ daughter Nancy and his first wife. It was published as a separate book by the Golden Eagle Press in 1949 with illustrations by Cummings, Klee, Modigliani, Picasso, and Roesch.


The third book to which Cummings, who had majored in Classics at Harvard, assigned a Greek title was Xaipe, a collection of 71 poems that was published by the Oxford University Press in 1950. The title—pronounced "ky er ee," with the accent on the first syllable, a near rhyme with "fiery"—is a greeting traditionally translated as "Rejoice!" It is the imperative form of the verb. The publishers tried in vain to dissuade Cummings from using as his title a word that few potential purchasers would understand, and when he insisted on Xaipe, they added the subtitle Seventy-one Poems.


The texts of the six presentations which Cummings made at Harvard in the 1952-53 academic year, during which he held the Charles Eliot Norton Professorship, were published with the title i: Six Nonlectures by the Harvard University Press in 1953.

In line with a suggestion given by Norman Friedman, a Harvard graduate student at the time, Cummings' talks were essentially autobiographical. They were, furthermore, in his opinion and at his insistence, not really lectures. He began the first with the announcement, "Let me cordially warn you at the opening of these so-called lectures, that I haven’t the remotest intention of posing as a lecturer." Hence his title.

POEMS 1923-1954

The collection which was called "the first complete edition" of Cummings' poetry was Poems 1923-1954, published by Harcourt, Brace in 1954. It brought together all of the poems that had appeared in Tulips and Chimneys, &, XLI Poems, is 5, ViVa, No Thanks, the "New Poems" section of Collected Poems, 50 Poems, 1 x 1, and Xaipe. The dates in the book’s title may be meant to refer to the years in which the first and the last of those earlier collections had been published. Many of the poems had, in fact, been written before 1923, and none of the poems Cummings had written after the publication of Xaipe in 1950 were included, the date 1954 notwithstanding. [end p. 167]


A collection of Cummings’ writings that had not previously appeared in a book was published by The Argophile Press in 1958. Its contents were listed by Cummings in his foreword. "This book consists of a cluster of epigrams, forty-nine essays on various subjects, a poem dispraising dogmata, and several selections from an unfinished play." The task of compiling and editing was performed by George J. Firmage, who was assisted by Cummings and his wife. Firmage had intended to title the collection Et Cetera; however Cummings insisted on A Miscellany.

Cummings was obviously pleased to have the various pieces, which date back as far as 1915, re-discovered and brought together. His forward concludes: "Taken ensemble,the forty-nine astonish and cheer and enlighten their progenitor. He’s astonished that,as nearly as anyone can make out,I wrote them. He’s cheered because,while re-reading them,I’ve encountered a great deal of liveliness and nothing dead. Last but not least:he’s enlightened via the realization that,whereas times can merely change,an individual may grow."

E.E. Cummings: A Miscellany Revised was published by October House in 1965. In his introduction, editor George Firmage wrote that the revised edition provided an opportunity to correct typographical errors that had crept into the original text, to arrange the pieces in chronological order and, most importantly, to include numerous line drawings and seven prose pieces that had not appeared in the earlier book, and most significantly Cummings’ translation of Louis Aragon’s Le Front Rouge.


The last collection of Cummings’ poems that he was able to see through publication was 95 Poems, published by Harcourt, Brace & World in 1958.


In 1962 Cummings asked George Firmage to arrange for the printing of a selection of his poems that would especially appeal to children, for the poet wanted to have something to send to those who wrote expressing interest in his work. Firmage, who was in charge of publications for a New York bank, published under the Marion Press imprint (a tribute to Marion, Cummings' wife), 200 copies of a little paper-bound booklet of sixteen poems to which Cummings, an ardent Francophile, gave the title 16 Poèmes Enfantin.


Cummings contributed the text for Adventures in Value, a collection of fifty black and white photographs by his wife, Marion Morehouse, published by Harcourt, Brace & World in 1962, the year of Cummings’ death. Definitions of value, quoted from The Concise Oxford Dictionary, give the two meanings of the word that are applicable to the book’s title: "Worth, [end p. 168] desirability, qualities on which these depend" and "Relation of one part of a picture to others in respect of light and shade."

The text consists of subjective commentaries on the photographs and flights of imaginative fancy inspired by them; some of the pieces are as brief as a single word; whereas others fill a page.


A collection of Cummings’ last poems, 73 Poems, was published by Harcourt, Brace & World in 1963.


Four children’s stories which, according to an introductory statement by Marion Morehouse Cummings, Cummings had written for his daughter, Nancy, "when she was a very little girl," were published with the title Fairy Tales by Harcourt, Brace & World in 1965. The stories are: "The Old Man Who Said ‘Why,’" "The Elephant & The Butterfly," "The House That Ate Mosquito Pie" and "The Little Girl Named I." The first story had been printed in The Cummings Number of The Harvard Wake in 1946.


Letters which Cummings had written to relatives and friends, beginning with a note to his grandmother written in 1899 through several written in 1962, the year of his death, a total of 265 in all, were compiled by F. W. Dupee and George Stade with the title Selected Letters of E. E. Cummings and published by Harcourt, Brace & World in 1969.


Etcetera, published in 1983 by Liveright, is a collection of 164 previously unpublished Cummings poems, chosen by co-editors George J. Firmage and Richard S. Kennedy "from more than 350 unpublished pieces that the search turned up," according to Kennedy’s introduction. The earliest date from 1904, when the poet was 10.

According to the editors’ figures, there must be 200 or so still unpublished Cummings poems; however, they are essentially "works in progress," unfinished poems that the poet had not approved for publication.


The definitive edition of Cummings’ poetry, entitled Complete Poems 1904-1962, was edited by his literary executor, George J. Firmage, and published by Liveright in 1991. A "Centennial Edition" of this collection was published three years later to mark the anniversary of the poet’s birth.

More than a thousand pages in length, this book contains every poem that [end p. 169] Cummings published or designated for publication as well as the additional 164 poems that Firmage and Kennedy had included in Etcetera.


A second volume of Cummings’ letters, those he wrote to Ezra Pound from 1930 to 1962, together with Pound’s letters to Cummings, was edited by Barry Ahearn and published by The University of Michigan Press in 1996 with the title Pound / Cummings: The Correspondence of Ezra Pound and E. E. Cummings.

—Cheriton, VA

[Editor's note: as was noted in the "For the Record" section of Spring 8 (1999), Liveright has published new anthology entitled AnOther E. E. Cummings, described on the fly-leaf as "an eye-opening selection of Cummings's most the avant-garde poetry and prose." The volume appeared in 1998 and was edited by Richard Kostlanetz and John Rocco.]

Works Cited

  • Friedman, Norman. E. E. Cummings: The Growth of a Writer. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1964.
  • Kennedy, Richard S. Dreams in the Mirror: A Biography of E. E. Cummings. New York: Liveright, 1980. [end p. 170]

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