In an interview for the Poetry Foundation author Susan Cheever talked about poet E. E. Cummings’ use of lower case letters. What she calls his “lowercaseness”.
“I’m not sure I can make a sweeping statement about lowercaseness. With Cummings, the lowercase “i” is partly because it looks Greek, it’s partly what he got from Sam Ward [a handyman who worked for the Cummings family and who used the lower-case “i” in letters]. We have to assume that Sam Ward used the lowercase “i” because he felt somehow that he was the handyman. I think also Cummings felt that he, Cummings, had to make up in energy and liveliness what he lacked in bulk and sportsmanship and all these masculine attributes that he just didn’t have. I think what he meant by the lowercase “i” was a sort of humble playfulness.
I don’t want to say he was a humble guy. Obviously, no poet is a humble guy. I mean, one of the big questions in his life is why did he leave Harvard so angrily. “The Cambridge Ladies” is an angry poem about Cambridge, where he grew up and where he stayed until he was 23. So when he left Cambridge, it was a real breakup. One of the reasons he left is that uppercaseness of Cambridge. I think the uppercaseness of Cambridge, especially when Cummings was there… in 1916 and 1917, was really harsh.”
Susan Cheever on E. E. Cummings and the state of biography.
by Claire Luchette
Originally Published: April 8, 2014