Skip to main content

...Cummings’ early poetry and art did bear affinities with that of the Decadents: sensuality abounded, often gratuitously, and the will to shock the complacency of bourgeois arts and letters went hand in hand with an art-for-art’s-sake undercurrent. But as the self-conscious lushness of his early poems dropped away, a new firmness took its place: the impulse towards economy replaced the temptation towards prolixity. It is no accident that long poems disappeared from his later volumes. Neither is it an accident that as Cummings progressed he became more representational in his painting and drawing. The immediacy of the outer world impinged more and more upon the inner fantasies; satire replace luxurious sensuality, and the artist who began with the interests of a Beardsley drew closer to the viewpoints of a Daumier.

Yet throughout this period of growth and development [roughly between 1920 and 1925] there remain constant similarities between poems and drawings. In each, he is seeking to convey the delight and humor which his own quick wit found in the world around him. And in each, he is seeking the most economical means to convey ideas and feelings about ideas. In each, too, he is seeking precision....Above all, in both poetry and drawing, he seeks movement and life.