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Edward Estlin Cummings was born on October 14, 1894 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in his family’s home, within an extremely short distance of Harvard (Dreams 9). His word usage and literary abilities were garnered at a young age from his parents. His father Edward was a professor (in fact, the first professor of sociology at Harvard) and a Unitarian minister and his mother Rebecca utilized reading poetry and stories to her children. His father’s strong voice and use of wordplay from his sermons and his mother’s encouragement for E.E. to keep a diary starting at age five started to shape his craft at an early age (Revisited 11). Rebecca aspired for her son to be the next Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (the Cummings family lived across the street from the Longfellow home before E.E. was born) (Dreams 19). Edward Estlin was also a cubist painter in addition to being a poet. During World War I, E.E. Cummings was an ambulance driver in France and was imprisoned under the pretense of treason (Poets.Org). The experience led to one his more important works, The Enormous Room.
Around the time of writing “l(a” E.E. Cummings health was in a very poor state. The poetry reading tours he took part in were furthering his terrible stomach problems in which he had been suffering from around 1955-56 (Dreams 459). In late 1957, his stomach ailments came to a head when a bleeding polyp was discovered in his colon. He spent his sixty-third birthday in a hospital bed and then spent six months in recovery while his “wife” Marion (of whom he was never actually married to) was in New York (Dreams 461).
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Kennedy, Richard S. Dreams in the Mirror. New York: Liveright Publishing Corp, 1980.
---, E.E. Cummings Revisited. New York: Twain Publishers, 1994.
Poets.Org. The Academy of American Poets, Inc. 6 April 2003.