This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for October 14, 2017: Primitive

October 14, 2017: birthday: E.E. Cummings

It’s the birthday of poet E.E. Cummings (Edward Estlin Cummings) (books by this author), born in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1894). He spent most of his life unhappy and irritable in New York, struggling to pay the bills, ostracized by other writers for his unpopular political views, yet he wrote many poems in a naïve style about the beauty of nature and love.

He had published several books of poetry, including Tulips and Chimneys (1923), but was still relatively unknown. He came to wider public attention by giving a series of lectures at Harvard University. Most lecturers spoke from behind a lectern, but he sat on the stage, read his poetry aloud, and talked about what it meant to him. The faculty members were embarrassed by his earnestness, but the undergraduates adored him and came to his lectures in droves. By the end of the 1950s, he had become the most popular poet in America. He loved performing, and loved the applause, and the last few years of his life were the happiest. He died on September 3, 1962.

In the first edition of his Collected Poems, he wrote in the preface, “The poems to come are for you and for me and are not for mostpeople — it’s no use trying to pretend that mostpeople and ourselves are alike. […] You and I are human beings; most people are snobs.”