In this comprehensive biography, Cheever celebrates the life of one of America's preeminent twentieth-century poets. With delightful glimpses into the modernist poetry scene of the Greenwich Village of his day, an intimate examination of his personal and intellectual life, one returns to Cummings with renewed appreciation for his joyful, irreverent nature - for his genius. — Amy Palmer
One of the Best Books of the Year: The Economist, San Francisco Chronicle
Cummings, in his radical experimentation with form, punctuation, spelling, and syntax, created a new kind of poetic expression. Because of his powerful work, he became a generation’s beloved heretic—at the time of his death he was one of the most widely read poets in the United States.
Now, in this rich, illuminating biography, Susan Cheever traces the development of the poet and his work. She takes us from Cummings’s seemingly idyllic childhood in Cambridge, Massachusetts, through his years at Harvard (rooming with Dos Passos, befriending Malcolm Cowley and Lincoln Kirstein). There, he devoured the poetry of Ezra Pound, whose radical verses lured the young writer away from the politeness of the traditional nature poem towards a more adventurous, sexually conscious form. We follow Cummings to Paris in 1917, and, finally, to Greenwich Village to be among other modernist poets of the day—Marianne Moore and Hart Crane, among them. E. E. Cummings is a revelation of the man and the poet, and a brilliant reassessment of the freighted path of his legacy.
Susan Cheever was born in New York City and graduated from Brown University. A Guggenheim fellow and a director of the board of the Yaddo Corporation, Cheever currently teaches in the MFA programs at Bennington College and The New School. She lives in New York City.
“An absorbing rehearsal of a vibrant life. . . . Cheever revives Cummings as a gregarious, quirky iconoclast through her evocative prose.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A smart and readable portrait.” —NPR
“[Cheever] is an astute observer of the inner life of writers and how they work. . . . This biography succeeds where other works have failed, by making this tricky poet understandable.” —The Economist
“A delight.” —The New York Times
“Effectively situates Cummings within a larger literary and cultural movement. . . . Cummings’s life is inherently interesting, dramatic, and sad, and Cheever highlights its colorful and tragic aspects.” —The Boston Globe
“Deeply personal. . . . A textured inspection of some of the more intriguing faces of the multifaceted Cummings.” —The Plain Dealer
“Cheever’s biography stands as a welcomed introductory attempt to understand Cummings’s impact. . . . One of the best efforts to situate a Modernist inside the larger historical context. . . . Filled in with entertaining research and deep thinking about the lives of artists.” —Daily Beast
“[Cummings’s] individualism makes him just about as American as apple pie; and as vital to the tradition of American poetry as Whitman, Dickinson, and Frost. I can only express gratitude to biographers like Cheever for keeping him alive today.” —J. P. Poole, Bookslut
“Affecting. . . . Deeply satisfying. . . . Ms. Cheever is the kind of biographer who can maintain both an intimacy and dispassionate relationship with her subject.” —New York Journal of Books
“Cheever’s reconsideration of Cummings and his work charms, rattles, and enlightens in emulation of Cummings’ radically disarming, tender, sexy, plangent, and furious poems.” —Booklist (starred review)
“This sympathetic life may win Cummings a new generation of readers.” —Kirkus Reviews