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E.E. Cummings

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Biography

Edward Estlin Cummings (who famously signed his poetry e.e. cummings) was a paradoxical poet who combined playfulness with seriousness; close attention to rhythm and rhyme with wild experimentation in grammar, spelling, and punctuation; and complicated ideas and images with simple words. Despite the experimental quality of his work, he was tremendously popular during his lifetime, a tribute rarely given to poets. In fact, critics tended to trivialize his work, characterizing it as naïve and sentimental. He studied at Harvard University. Morally opposed to combat, he served in World War I as an ambulance volunteer, in France, where he was briefly imprisoned for his anti-war statements. After the war, he settled in Paris, then considered the literary capital of the world and artistic home to such diverse figures as Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. Cummings later returned to the United States, continuing, nevertheless, to travel throughout his life. His poetry's vividness and quirkiness have attracted many composers, who usually provide his poems with delicate, subtle settings to showcase their typically whimsical tones. These composers include Aaron Copland, Randall Shin, Morton Feldman, Peter Dickinson, Celius Dougherty, Wim de Ruiter, Ellen Mandel, Daniel Asia, Dan Welcher, Stanworth Beckler, Gwyneth Walker, and Pat Donaher.