51. Might be the greatest

EE Cummings has a curate’s egg of a reputation. On the one hand, he earns namechecks in everything from sugary Hollywood flicks to bookish Woody Allen scenes (Hannah and Her Sisters) and Björk songs (Sonnets/Unrealities xi). On the other, he’s often seen as pretentious and obscure.

The inclusion of his poems in film and music is usually shorthand for “I am intelligent and sensual, honest.” But when you read the books, you find he’s not difficult or syrupy. In fact, he’s not like any other writer at all.

He’s fresh, funny and cheekily childlike, as well as the master of the tactile, puzzling love poem.

A new complete edition of Cummings’s poetry, edited by George James Firmage, brings together all the poems published or intended for publication in the poet’s lifetime. It charts early ventures in modernism through to his most avant-garde experiments with language. And it gives the impression that he might be the greatest poet of the last century. / Charlotte Runcie, Telegraph

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