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“It must be said once and for all that his name should be written and printed with the usual capital letters in their usual places: “E. E. Cummings.” So insists the late Norman Friedman, Cummings scholar and co-founder of the E.E. Cummings Society.

Oh, isn’t Cummings the poet who never uses capitals?

“Even a casual look at his poems shows that of course he uses capitals—he uses them frequently, albeit not always conventionally. The same goes for spacing, word and line breaks, parentheses, and punctuation, not to mention grammar and syntax. What probably accounts for the common misperception that he is a lowercase poet is his usual printing of “I” as “i.”

Interestingly, he wrote in a letter to his mother on September 3, 1925, “I am a small eye poet.” Notice that he capitalizes the first-person singular, distinguishing between the writer of the letter and the writer of the poetry”.

Well, didn’t he always sign his name ee cummings?

No, not that either. In his letters, which were usually typed, he most frequently used the uppercase form, with his signature at the bottom in caps.

EE letter to Mr. Jess

This September 1942 letter was written by Cummings while he was at Joy Farm, his summer residence in Silver Lake, New Hampshire. It was written to Jesse Shackford, Sr., the first of many Shackfords to work for Cummings and Marion Morehouse. Mr. Shackford, as Cummings respectfully addressed him, was apparently ill at the time and the letter was sent to the Memorial Hospital in North Conway–the same hospital where E.E. Cummings died in September 1962.

Note the return address typed as EECummings SilverLake. Both the letter and the envelop demonstrate Cummings’ typical practice of omitting spaces and combining words, but he uses capital letters where appropriate in his name.

Another letter written to Ruth and Jesse Shackford, Jr., known as Bud, refers to his beloved Chocorua mountain, capitalizes the letter “I”, and is signed simply Estlin.

Estlin card

Visit Joy Farm and the Jesse Shackford farm, enjoy the Cummings’ Family Collection at the Madison Historical Society and take a self-guided tour of 4 other locations related to E.E. Cummings (with capital letters) during the Cummings at Silver Lake Celebration Weekend presented by Friends of Madison Library on July 10 & 11, 2015. Order will call tickets now.

ee signature

signature on letter to Norman Friedman January 13, 1949

Quotes from Norman Friedman
[Spring 1 (1992): 114-121]

With many thanks to Ruth Shackford, Silver Lake, NH