October 14, 2012
Along with two books and four plays, E.E. CUMMINGS (Edward Estlin Cummings, 1894–1962) penned nearly 3,000 poems in his 67 years. His work spanned the best of the human experience, from the joy of the natural world (“i thank You God for most this amazing”) to the thrill of true love (“i carry your heart with me(i carry it in”). With so much light in his word, it can be hard to understand how a gifted artist like Cummings could also be such a repellent person. He fervently supported Joseph McCarthy. He seduced the wife of one of his Harvard classmates. And to this day, readers and critics debate about his use of racial and ethnic slurs in his poems; Roger Ebert argued that Cummings was not a racist, but used those charged words to explore issues of class and color. Despite his controversial choices, Cummings remains one of the most iconic and easily identifiable poetic talents of the 20th century. His quirky use of typography and his penchant for inventing compound words ensured he would be considered an avant-garde poet in his own time. But unlike many other avant-garde artists of his age, the poems of e. e. cummings still seem experimental and forward-thinking today. His early work will soon be a century old, but his halting cadences remain timelessly captivating.
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Steve Coogan.
READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the Modernist (1884–93) and Hardboiled (1894-1903) Generations.